“What’s pancake day all about?” I ask my 7 and 8 year olds over breakfast.
“Pancakes!” my 7 year old replies gleefully. O-Oh. I have work to do here!
“What else?” I ask. No response.
“It begins with L and rhymes with Bent.”
“Lent!” *phew! *
“Why do we eat pancakes?”
“To use up the eggs.”
“Why do we need to do that?” No response.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who has celebrated Shrove Tuesday every year with my children only for them to have no clue why. So here’s how I explained it to them. Please note, this is very much my take on it, and is linked with the fact we’ve been reading the story of Noah this week and that we celebrate Passover, and are very familiar with stories around the tabernacle.
So, we use up the eggs on Pancake Day because the day after Shrove Tuesday (it’s Official Name!) is traditionally the beginning of 40 days of fasting. Can you think of anything else in the Bible which happened for 40 days?
“Fasting?!” My 7 year old responds.
“We shouldn’t do that. We’re very hungry people!”
So then I describe how some people fast food (not like MacDonalds, like, go without eating!) and others fast chocolate or Facebook or TV (audible gasps from my children!).
Other people take an alternative approach, choosing to do something instead of giving something up, like the 40acts of generosity we did a couple of years ago.
But whatever it is we choose to do or not do, it’s to help us come near to God, to connect with him.
My 8 year old interjects at this point that she is keen to do this, as long as she can connect with God in her own way.
“Of course!” I say. “And what’s so exciting is that when we come near to God, the Bible says he draws near to us.”
I then quickly look up James 4v8, write it on a yellow postcard and we read it together:
“Draw near to God and he’ll draw near to you.”
It’s a lovely verse and always makes me think of magnets. As one magnet moves within range of the other, the other zips up to it. I’ve even written a song about it on the possible now out of print Bitesize Bible Songs CD.
In fact, I think the whole OT sacrifice system was about this, as the Hebrew word ‘korban’ is what we have translated as sacrifice or offering, but it literally means to ‘draw near’ or ‘come close’. Facinating! I think the sacrifices were at least partly to give God’s people a reason and a way of coming close to him, drawing them from their tents in their camp in the desert into the tent of meeting where God dwelt among them.
My challenge this Lent is to resist buying all the lovely Lent books and activities out there and find something for myself personally and for us as a family which will help us come near to God.
What might you choose?
For more details on Victoria’s Family Passover Workshop, see here