The Lenten season can be challenging to explain to a child. It is an innately sorrowful time as we confront and mourn Jesus’ suffering, but it is also a time to celebrate and serve. How can we teach our children to understand and celebrate the pain that comes from personal sacrifice?
As Christians, we are guided by examples of the power Christ’s servitude. This week’s readings from Isaiah, Philippians, and Luke’s gospel, provide comfort and courage in times of sorrow and hardship. Christ was aware of the immense sacrifices he would be forced to make and the consequences that would result. Nonetheless, he chose to live a life of love and justice and to accept the consequences. Not for himself, but for others and the good of the whole. That is what sacrifice is - choosing to give up, foregoing what is easy and comfortable, and often taking the difficult path in lieu of the easy one - all without the possibility of personal gain and with the full understanding of what will come as a result of our choices. Often, personal sacrifice hurts.
So how do parents transition from talking about the joyful birth of Christ in the Advent season, to teaching the humbling idea of self-emptying and sacrifice? The complexity of the Stations of the Cross may have to wait for my toddlers. However, we think the best place to start is having them understand the act of giving something up that is important to them. They will not understand at first. They cannot. Yet sacrificing is also about learning and teaching. As we teach our children about what it means to sacrifice for others, we too hope to gain a deeper understanding of what Christ did for us and continue to learn how we can give of ourselves in order to do for others.