I’m not going to lie…last year, Lent felt like a continuation of the disaster that was all of 2020, and now here we are again at the first Sunday of what I can only assume is a never-ending Lent:

I look forward to the year (I hope!) where it feels like Easter never ends!

Greetings! Hosanna!

Today the church celebrates Palm Sunday, which is the beginning of Holy Week. This is a well-known church feast, and one many people look forward to. But this year, the calendar works out so that today the church also celebrates the Feast of the Annunciation, marking the visit of the angel Gabriel to Mary, and the beginning of Jesus’ earthly life. This may be a lesser-known feast to some, but there are some parallels between Palm Sunday and Annunciation Day that make me enjoy the felicitous calendar dates this year.

  • Both days are marked by exclamations. On Palm Sunday we hear the joyful shouts of the crowd: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” On Annunciation Day, we hear a different exclamation, when the angel appears to Mary and says: “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”
  • Both mark the start of something big. Palm Sunday begins the most somber week of the church year, the week where Jesus begins His final journey to the cross. Annunciation Day begins Jesus life on the earth with His conception. Both ultimately point to the same thing: Jesus’ triumph over sin and death, and the eternal life He won for us!
  • Both focus on Jesus as a son. On Palm Sunday, we hear the people calling for the “Son of the David”…not the direct son of the great king, but a descendant in David’s line, the one the people were hoping would  come with might and majesty to rescue them and claim the throne of His ancestor. On Annunciation Day, we hear Gabriel tell Mary that she will give birth a son, who will be not only a man, but also the Son of the Most High, God in the flesh!

I’ve always felt that there’s something especially Advent-y about Palm Sunday. This year, however, we get an even bigger glimpse of Adventide even as Lent winds down, as we hear the great announcement of Gabriel to Mary. The baby king in the crude manger is the same humble king who rode into Jerusalem on a lowly donkey.

Hosanna! Gloria! Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!

A Lenten Dinner

Ever since last Holy Week, I’ve been thinking about an idea I have for a special Lenten dinner. I’ve seen this done in different combinations other places Shower of Roses has great ideas from a Catholic point-of-view!), and I thought it would be fun to put my own spin on it. I’m planning on our family dinner taking place at some point during Holy Week, because all of the events referenced in the meal take place during that time, but you could do it at any point during Lent that works for your family!

  • Sparkling grape juice–Before He was handed over to be crucified, Jesus spent some talking to His disciples, including reminding them that He is the vine, and they the branches (John 15:1-17). Sparkling fruit of the vine (grape juice) makes a nice accompaniment to this meal.
  • Salad with hearts of palm and an oil and red wine vinegar dressing–You can start your meal off with a salad that has several Holy Week connections. Any tossed salad will work, just add in some hearts of palm (available in jars at many supermarkets) to remember the Triumphal Entry on Palm Sunday (Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-40; John 12:12-19), and dress with (olive) oil to remember the parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 25:1-13), and red wine vinegar to remember Jesus being offered sour wine on the cross (John 19:28-30).
  • Mount of olives–After supper on Maundy Thursday, Jesus and His disciples went to the Mount of Olives (Matthew 26:30; Mark 14:26; Luke 22:39-46). You don’t have to offer a mountain’s worth, but a plate or bowl of your favorite olives for your family to enjoy will do the trick!
  • Crown of thorns dip–This takes a bit of imagination without a picture, but you can prepare a basic hot cheese (or your family’s favorite) dip in a round serving dish, and arrange tortilla chips, with their points up, around the edge to symbolize the crown of thorns Jesus wore (Mark 15:16-20).
  • Unleavened bread–The Passover (Exodus 12:1-28; 43-51), and thus Maundy Thursday (Matthew 26:17-29), is known for unleavened bread. This is a fun and easy recipe to make with children, and will make a good addition to your Lenten meal.
  • The “rooster crows twice” chicken–You can use your family’s favorite chicken recipe to remember that Jesus told Peter that he would betray Him three times before the rooster crowed twice (Matthew 26:30-35, 69-75; Mark 14:26-31, 66-72; Luke 22:31-34, 54-62; John 13:36-38, 18:15-18, 25-27). Bonus points if you can use it for dinner twice with leftovers!
  • Fig Newtons–Even a Holy Week meal needs a dessert. You can start with some Fig Newtons to remember Jesus’ teaching about the fig tree during Holy Week (Matthew 21:18-22, 24:32-35; Mark 11:12-14, 20-26, 13:28-31; Luke 21:29-33).
  • A purple robe–Jesus was given a purple robe to wear before He was crucified (Mark 15:16-20). Grape fruit leather or roll-ups can remind children of this Holy Week event. They can also be used a reminder of the garment without seam that Jesus wore (John 19:23-24a), and they can be torn by each family member to recognize the tearing of the Temple curtain at the time of Jesus’ death (Mark 15:38).
  • Hershey’s kisses–Judas betrayed Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane with a kiss (Matthew 26:47-56; Mark 14:43-50; Luke 22:47-53), and a Hershey’s kiss is an easy was to teach this part of the Holy Week story.
  • 30 pieces of silver–Chocolate coins can be used instead of (or in addition to) the Hershey’s kisses to emphasize the amount of money Judas was given to betray Jesus (Matthew 26:14-16).
  • Sleepytime tea–The disciples were supposed to keep watch while Jesus prayed in the garden, but instead fell asleep (Matthew 26:38-46). Finish your meal with a cup of relaxing tea.
  • Resurrection rolls–If you’re still awake, you can prepare resurrection rolls with your family, and place them in the oven to rest overnight, as a reminder that Jesus’ body rested in the tomb (Matthew 27:57-61; Mark 15:42-47; Luke 23:50-56; John 19:38-42). Look for a surprise the next day when you eat them!

These are just some ideas for ways to help your children remember the events of Holy Week. What things do you do as a family during this penitential season?

Time to Say Goodbye

Tonight, before the children go to bed, we will say goodbye to our family Alleluia Banner, and put it away until the end of Lent.


We already said our farewells to the Alleluias in church on Sunday, as is the liturgical tradition. But since we are fortunate enough to have an Alleluia Banner at home, we make a big deal out of putting it away on Shrove Tuesday, and replacing it with the Jesus Tree Banner, which will become the focal point of our Bible readings for the next 40+ days. Being able to follow these liturgical traditions at home as well as in church is one of my favorite parts of being a Lutheran!

Alleluia cannot always
Be our song while here below;
Alleluia, our transgressions
Make us for a while forgo;
For the solemn time is coming
When our tears for sin must flow.

Approaching Lent

It’s hard to believe, but Lent begins on Wednesday. If you’re looking for some family Lenten ideas, I have a few suggestions.

Our Lenten traditions actually begin the day before Lent officially begins. On Shrove Tuesday (the day before Ash Wednesday), we say goodbye to the Alleluias. This may require some reverse engineering if you don’t already have an Alleluia Banner. It can be simple…an alleluia drawn on construction paper, and then put away until Easter. Or, it can be more complicated–a banner with the word alleluia, or, like ours, with the word alleluia in every liturgical color. How fancy your alleluias are isn’t the point…making a point to say goodbye, and put them away until Lent is over is what you’re trying to share with your children. When you make a big deal out of putting them away, bringing them back after the Great Vigil of Easter is an even bigger celebration!

For the last few years, we’ve put up a “Jesus Tree” throughout the season of Lent. Similar to the Jesse Tree, its Advent counterpart, the Jesus Tree focuses on stories from Jesus’ life, culminating with the events of Holy Week. We all really enjoy adding this to our morning routine…the Bible readings (many days, we’ll read the story from both the Bible and a children’s Bible storybook), are very helpful in refreshing our memories, and the visual component of the tree itself helps us to remember all we’ve learned.

Last year, I added a Lent calendar to our schoolroom. Because Lent is such a long season, to young children especially, it seems like it may never end. While the Jesus Tree is good because there is a reading for every day in Lent, when you’re counting up like that, you can’t see the end. A calendar helps children see what day it currently is, and where you are in the season of Lent. I also added markers for special commemoration days like St. Patrick’s Day and the Annunciation. This year, I’m considering putting a black cross on every square in Lent, except for the current day, which will remain purple. This way, the children can take down one cross at the end of the day, to emphasize how many days there are in the season.

Possibly my favorite Lenten tradition is the making and blessing of the yearly Paschal candle. This is something we do on Holy Saturday every year, so it’s ready when we get home from the Great Vigil of Easter. It doesn’t take much time, and the kit we use makes it a simple activity. I think it’s a special way to end Lent, and it’s a nice way to tie church and home together.

These are just a few ideas for how you can celebrate Lent in your home. What else does your family do to observe this penitential season?

A Calendar for Lent

Moose has really been interested in when each of the special days in Lent are going to happen, so in addition to our Jesus Tree, I decided to make a calendar where he can see when all of the special days occur:


We’re marking the current day with the purple cross. All of the Sundays are marked, as well as dates like St. Patrick’s Day, the Annunciation, and, of course, the days of Holy Week.

I’m sure it would look better if we had a color printer, but for now, this will do. I used tape on the movable dates, so we’ll be able to use this calendar for years to come!


Observing Lent at Home

Yesterday I was a guest on KFUO’s Faith ‘n’ Family to discuss ideas for observing Lent in the home, including our favorite activity, the Jesus Tree. If you’re wondering what our observances look like, or are looking for ideas to use in your own home, please take some time to listen…hopefully, I made sense, and didn’t sound as nervous as I felt!

An Activity for Holy Saturday

I have long been frustrated in trying to find appropriate activities for Lent and Holy Week, because while it’s easy to find Easter activities  Lent-only activities are a bit tougher, and I refuse to rush into Easter before Easter. When I saw this Paschal Candle kit, I realized that it’s the perfect activity for Holy Saturday, as many churches dedicate their new Paschal Candles at the Great Vigil of Easter on Holy Saturday night.


The children had a lot of fun rolling the sheets of beeswax to make the candle, and then decorating it with the included gold cord, decals and gems. I think the detail on it is quite pretty:


Ryan dedicated it in a way very similar to how is done at church:

Christ Jesus, the same yesterday, today, and forever, the beginning and the ending, the Alpha and the Omega.
His are time and eternity, His are the glory and dominion, now and forever.
By His wounds we have healing both now and forever. Amen.

It was ready for us to light when we got home from church tonight, when Ryan finished the dedication:

May the light of Christ, who is risen in glory from the dead, scatter all the darkness of our hearts and mind.


We’ll light it again tomorrow night at dinner, and probably also on Pentecost. I think after that, I’m going to save it, because I’m especially looking forward to using it as the centerpiece of our Advent wreath this fall. I’m pretty sure that this will become a new yearly tradition!

Lent and Ash Wednesday

Today is Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of the forty-day season of Lent. Many churches, as part of their Ash Wednesday services, practice the imposition of ashes, in which the sign of the cross is made upon the heads of the faithful, as a reminder that we “are dust, and to dust we shall return.” The ashes are often the product of burning the palm branches from the previous year’s observance of Palm Sunday. The imposition of ashes is not a requirement, but rather a nice, visible reminder of the frailty of our lives, and Christ’s sacrifice for us. This begins the “purple season;” however, like Good Friday, Ash Wednesday can also be observed with simple black banners and paraments in the church.

From the Treasury of Daily Prayer:

During the forty days of Lent, God’s baptized people cleanse their hearts through the discipline of Lent: repentance, prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Lent is a time in which God’s people prepare with joy for the Paschal Feast (Easter). It is a time in which God renews His people’s zeal in faith and life. It is a time in which we pray that we may be given the fulness of grace that belongs to the children of God.

The Jesus Tree

Here is our completed tree, with all forty-eight symbols attached, (you can definitely tell what parts of the tree were easier for the children to reach!). I’m going to leave it up for as much of the Easter season as possible, but the tape on the backs of a lot of the symbols is starting to wear out, so if the symbols keep falling off, I’m going to have to put it away. Next year, I may get some spray adhesive–according to the instructions that came with the kit, you can lightly spray the back of the symbol before placing it to help it stick, but it’s not permanent. I am a little worried about it pulling up the fibers of the banner too much, but we’ll have to see, because tape didn’t really cut it, especially for some of the heavier symbols.

I know I’ve said it before, but this was a fantastic activity. I really liked the suggestion in the kit to read out of a standard Bible in the morning, and a children’s Bible in the evening. While I don’t think a simpler version of the story was always necessary, hearing the story multiple times, and in different ways really makes it “stick,” and is good for discussion. Same logic applies to reading the story from multiple Gospels whenever possible–it may be repetitive, but you also pick up extra details you might otherwise have missed if you stuck with only one Gospel reading. I’m going to use this pattern of morning Bible readings and evening children’s Bible readings with our Jesse Tree next Advent, as well–I don’t know why that didn’t occur to me before, but I’m glad I have the idea now!

I’m not going to lie–putting together this project was a huge commitment. Between cutting and assembling the banner and all of the symbols, and creating a reading schedule for the children’s Bible readings, I probably put between 20 and 30 hours into creating this resource–and that’s with having patterns for all of the symbols, and the Bible readings prepared for me! It was well worth it, however, because of how much we enjoyed it and learned from it, (yes, even I learned some new things as we went through the Scripture readings!), and knowing that I’ll be able to use it for years to come really puts into perspective how worthwhile the effort put into it was.