This is an assembly I did today for a local infants school, trying to find a good fun way to get them thinking about what Easter is all about:
Preparation and materials
- You will need four eggs – two fresh and two hard-boiled (don’t forget to mark them so you can tell which is which!). A large bowl to break the fresh eggs into. A damp cloth to clean up any mess! Apron (optional depending on how messy you’re prepared to get – don’t wear your best clothes!).
- You will need some hot cross buns, a large Easter egg, and an empty packet of fish fingers.
- Bible reading: John 21.1–14. You could ask a child to read this.
Explain that this morning you have with you some different types of Easter food. Get the children to consider quietly what food they think you have brought.
Bring out the hot cross buns. Explain that buns like these have been eaten for hundreds of years, and were particularly popular during holidays like Christmas and Easter. The cross marked on them is a reminder of Jesus’ death on a cross, so eventually they became associated with Good Friday.
Bring out the big Easter egg. Talk about how much we all enjoy eating chocolate at Easter. Explain that in the past, eggs were considered a luxury food, so during Lent people used to give up eating them. (Remind the children, particularly if you have spoken to them about this during Lent, that on Shrove Tuesday eggs would have been used up in the pancakes.) Eggs also remind us of new life, and spring. Some people also say that the inside of a chocolate egg reminds us of Jesus’ empty tomb.
The last Easter food you have brought is … fish fingers! Bring out the empty fish finger packet. A strange choice – do we normally eat fish fingers on Easter Day?
No, but we do hear a lot about fish in the stories about Jesus, and one famous story about fish tells of something that happened after Jesus came back to life.
Read, or paraphrase, John 21.1–14.
1-3 After this, Jesus appeared again to the disciples, this time at the Tiberias Sea (the Sea of Galilee). This is how he did it: Simon Peter, Thomas (nicknamed “Twin”), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the brothers Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. Simon Peter announced, “I’m going fishing.”
3-4 The rest of them replied, “We’re going with you.” They went out and got in the boat. They caught nothing that night. When the sun came up, Jesus was standing on the beach, but they didn’t recognize him.
5 Jesus spoke to them: “Good morning! Did you catch anything for breakfast?”
They answered, “No.”
6 He said, “Throw the net off the right side of the boat and see what happens.”
They did what he said. All of a sudden there were so many fish in it, they weren’t strong enough to pull it in.
7-9 Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Master!”
When Simon Peter realized that it was the Master, he threw on some clothes, for he was stripped for work, and dove into the sea. The other disciples came in by boat for they weren’t far from land, a hundred yards or so, pulling along the net full of fish. When they got out of the boat, they saw a fire laid, with fish and bread cooking on it.
10-11 Jesus said, “Bring some of the fish you’ve just caught.” Simon Peter joined them and pulled the net to shore—153 big fish! And even with all those fish, the net didn’t rip.
12 Jesus said, “Breakfast is ready.” Not one of the disciples dared ask, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Master.
13-14 Jesus then took the bread and gave it to them. He did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus had shown himself alive to the disciples since being raised from the dead.
They were so excited that he was alive again.
End by talking about how at Easter, Jesus died and came back to life. Christians believe that Jesus is with us now as our friend, even though we can’t see him.
Then say you want to use some eggs to demonstrate something about the story of Easter. Put on your apron if you have one.
Pick up the fresh eggs and make a show of ‘accidentally’ breaking them in your hand (be prepared for the egg to go everywhere, which will add to the effect). Hopefully the children will laugh, at which point say, ‘If you think that’s funny, you do better – catch!’ and throw one of the hard-boiled eggs to one of the older children. For added fun you can throw another before the children have time to register that they are hard-boiled. (The usual health and safety warnings apply here: throw low and gently and preferably to a good catcher if you know one.)
Explain that you threw the eggs to demonstrate something about the Easter story. The Easter story is all about the unexpected, about a surprise.
Read or tell the story of how the women, Jesus’ friends, went to the tomb and found it open and empty. They were shocked and surprised to find the body not there.
Say that we have all been expecting Easter (we may have been looking at eggs in the shops). But the first Christians were not expecting Easter at all. They didn’t expect to see Jesus again. Ask the children to imagine that they were friends of Jesus.
Jesus was their friend, they loved him. Then they saw him get into trouble with the Roman authorities, and they saw him die. They were so sad that they cried and cried. They thought he had left them for ever. After a couple of days they decided to go to visit his grave. But the tomb was empty! What a huge, amazing, exciting surprise! More surprising and exciting than 100 Easter eggs, or 100 eggs thrown about in an assembly!
Explain that the Easter story shows us how when things seem at their worst, when everything has gone wrong, we can often find signs of new life and new hope – if we are open to being surprised.
Ask the children to sit quietly, close their eyes and think what it must have been like for Jesus to come back to life on Easter Sunday.
What was it like for his followers, the men and women who had been with him and seen him die a painful death?
What was it like for them after their special friend had died?
And then, what was it like when he came back to life, a special, new kind of life that he shared with them?
Dear God, thank you for hot cross buns and chocolate eggs at Easter. Help us to remember their special meaning – that Jesus died on the cross and then was raised to life for all of us. Amen.