Stephen Kuhrt writes: For a number of years, I have written a Children’s Carol Service for use the Sunday before Christmas at Christ Church, New Malden. Both children and adults come in biblical costumes. The aim has been to combine something of the fun of Christmas Panto with conveying biblical theology that draws out the significance of Christmas and its themes – particularly the political significance of the off neglected roles of Herod and Augustus. This year I wrote an Easter equivalent which took place on Sunday 3rd April to try and provide a template with which the church could approach Easter over the next two weeks. Whilst the theology sought to challenge adults as much as children, the language used tried to be accessible for children (sin/evil as ‘the bad stuff’ and Messiah as ‘Special King’ and so on). Easter proved more of a challenge than writing for Christmas and there were things I discovered during the performance that will amend my approach in future years. But it was great fun, made a considerable impact and the script (which can be varied any way people want) is offered here in case anyone else can make use of it.
(The Easter Bunny enters)
Easter Bunny: Well welcome everyone to the first ever ‘Easter Costume and Praise’ at Christ Church. I was told that people had to come dressed as a character from the Easter story and so here I am. I hope you like my costume – after all, you can’t get ‘more Eastery’ than the Easter Bunny, can you? And of course my role – a deeply moving and solemn one, if I might say – is that giving out chocolate eggs on Easter Day, a task, indeed a vocation which lies right at the heart of what Easter is all about.
Bartholomew: (appearing from the back dressed as a disciple) Excuse me, can I say something?
Easter Bunny: Oh dear, who on earth are you supposed to be?
Bartholomew: Me? I’m Bartholomew, one of the disciples.
Easter Bunny: Bartholomew, one of the disciples? What an earth do you mean? And what you do look like? We were clearly told in the instructions from that Vicar chap that we had to come dressed as a character from the Easter story – but look at you! Not a floppy ear, no big teeth or a chocolate egg in sight. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear!
Bartholomew: Well there’s a reason for that.
Easter Bunny: Oh yes and what that might be?
Bartholomew: The reason is that I am a disciple and the disciples are very much to do with the Easter story.
Easter Bunny: Are they? They can’t be a very big part. I’ve never heard of them
Bartholomew: Well it’s not the most important part in the Easter story, granted. But I’ve got to say its loads more important than yours because, well … (pausing to be tactful)… you’re not in the Easter story at all!
Easter Bunny: Not in the Easter story at all?? Me, the Easter Bunny?? Oh yes I am!
Bartholomew: (encouraging everyone to join in) Oh no you’re not!
Easter Bunny: Oh yes I am!
Bartholomew: (encouraging everyone to join in) Oh no you’re not!
Easter Bunny: Oh yes I am!
Bartholomew: (encouraging everyone to join in) Oh no you’re not!
Easter Bunny: Oh yes I am!
Bartholomew: (encouraging everyone to join in) Oh no you’re not!
Easter Bunny: (starting to cry) I can’t believe it. Me – the Easter Bunny – not part of the Easter story. Not at all? I am gutted. And after all the church budget I spent on this costume. What is to become of me??!!
Bartholomew: Well look, it’s not as bad as all that. When I said that you’re not in the Easter Story, I meant the original Easter Story in the Bible that tells us the whole reason that Easter is important. But like everyone, once you understand the story and its importance, you can find your place in it.
Easter Bunny: Really, is that true?
Bartholomew: It sure is. Easter is for everyone because Jesus – the person at the centre of Easter – is for everyone. I think we’d better hear the Easter story again this morning so that all of us – including you – can be reminded of how important this story is.
Easter Bunny: Well I’m up for that. How does it start?
Bartholomew: Well there’s a question. You could say it starts when God created the world. You could say it needed to start once that world went wrong through people disobeying God and all the bad stuff coming into the world. You could say it began when God started his plan for putting that world right through the people of Israel. In some ways, it starts with all of those things. But we’re going to start it with Jesus.
Easter Bunny: Jesus? Isn’t that what Christmas is all about?
Bartholomew: Well Christmas is when we remember Jesus first coming into the world as a baby. But the most important things that Jesus did were much later – when he was about 33 years old.
Easter Bunny: Really? I’d like to hear about that.
Bartholomew: You will, you will. But we’re going to sing our first Easter Song. It’s called ‘Make Way’ and it’s all about when Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Here is the donkey and here is (child’s name) who is going carry it around the church with all of the children in costume following. Everyone should have been given a palm branch as you came in and as we sing this we’ve got wave our palm branches in the air – before – and only at the point that I say laying them down in the central aisle. That will only happen half way through the song, so watch me carefully and I’ll give the thumbs up for when we do this.
Song: Make Way
Easter Bunny: (singing) Make way, Make way for Christ the King, in splendour arrives!! What a great song. I loved that!
Bartholomew: Yes it is great and it all happened on Palm Sunday, exactly a week before Easter Day when Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey to crowds waving palm branches as he came in. The prophet Zechariah in the Old Testament had said that when Israel’s special king came, he would come into Jerusalem riding on a donkey and that’s what was happening.
Easter Bunny: But what does it mean to say that Jesus was the special king?
Bartholomew: Ahh, well that was just the question. Why don’t we ask one of the crowd that waved those branches as Jesus came into Jerusalem. (Calling out to Jewish Revolutionary), you sir would you mind joining us up here on the platform?
(Jewish Revolutionary comes on to the platform)
Jewish Revolutionary: So what can I do for you?
Bartholomew: Well I’d like to ask you a question
Jewish Revolutionary: Of course, fire away
Bartholomew: So why did you turn out today and wave those palm branches to welcome Jesus on that donkey into Jerusalem
Jewish Revolutionary: (secretively) Ahh. You saw me do that, did you? (Looking at Bartholomew) Well you look safe enough. (Looking at Easter Bunny) Not sure about your mate, it has to be said. But, yes I was here to welcome the… er … (whispering) new king, if you get my drift…
Easter Bunny: (loudly) The New King?
Jewish Revolutionary: Sssh. Keep your voice down! We don’t want the Romans to hear us, do we? We’d be for the chop. No. I was there because I hate the Romans after all the bad stuff they’ve done to Israel with their taxes and their cruelty and what I was hoping – what I am hoping – that is this Jesus, will be the special king that God will send to rescue us.
Bartholomew: The special king to rescue us?
Jewish Revolutionary: Yes to rescue us by killing all the Romans!
Easter Bunny: Killing them??
Jewish Revolutionary: Yes, killing them! They’ve be no point in God sending us a special king otherwise, would there? Yep, I hoping that Jesus was the special king God promised to send and I’ll know that’s so the minute that he starts killing Romans! I will see you later.
(Jewish Revolutionary goes back into congregation)
Easter Bunny: Wow, I didn’t know all this was in Easter story? I didn’t think church was meant to be political.
Bartholomew: You don’t believe all that cobblers about church not being political, do you? Easter and Jesus is massively political. But not, I’m afraid, in the way that man thought with all that talk of Jesus killing Romans. He’d got that completely wrong and that was shown by what happened next. God had a very different plan for getting rid of the bad stuff. We’ll start hearing about that after we’ve sung our next song so let’s stand to sing…
Song: O Lord the Cloud are Gathering
Easter Bunny: Well that was another good song but it’s a bit of an odd choice to sing about ‘the fire of judgement’ on a day of costume and celebration, isn’t it?
Bartholomew: Maybe … but we can’t understand the message of Jesus without it
Easter Bunny: I don’t understand. A minute ago were hearing all about Jesus being welcomed as the special king and everyone being happy with him and it now all sounds a lot less happy…
Bartholomew: Umm…. It’s a bit difficult to explain. Ahh … here is someone who can help us…
(Temple priest enters)
Temple Priest: (in a very cross voice) Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. It really won’t do. It won’t do it at all!!
Easter Bunny: What won’t do? Why are you so angry?
Temple Priest: I’m angry because of what this fellow Jesus has just done in the Temple!!
Easter Bunny: Oh and what’s that?
Temple Priest: Caused chaos and disorder, that’s what! It’s Passover, one of the busiest times of the year when we do loads of business selling animals for people to sacrifice in the Temple. And this Jesus comes in, turns over the all the stalls and basically announces God’s judgement upon us. There’s a picture of it happening. How very dare he!!!
Bartholomew: (knowingly) Announcing God’s judgement? What did he say?
Temple Priest: What did he say?? Something about God saying that his house being meant to be ‘a house of prayer for all nations’ but us turning it instead into ‘a den of thieves’. And to think, some people thought he might have been the special king that God sent to rescue us? To take the bad stuff away. The special king would never talk that way about the Temple and God’s people, would he? We’re going to need to get rid of him fast!!
(Temple Priest angrily leaves)
Easter Bunny: Wow… he seemed pretty annoyed with Jesus, didn’t he? Surely Jesus came to love people, not to make them cross?
Bartholomew: Well, he certainly came to love people but that involved being honest about what God’s people had done wrong.
Easter Bunny: And what was that?
Bartholomew: Well, the thing about the people of Israel is that they were meant to be like a really bright light that would show everyone else in the world what God was like. The Temple even had a special place for these people – it was called ‘the court of the Gentiles’ – you can see it there in the picture – that big open space there. The idea was that the Jews would help lead everyone to God.
Easter Bunny: And that didn’t happen?
Bartholomew: In a word, no. In the very place where the people from other countries were able to worship God, the priests instead piled up stalls to make money. And part of Jesus being Israel’s special king meant making it clear that God’s people had got it wrong and not been that special people that God made them to be?
Easter Bunny: Oh, is that why Jesus did that thing with the fig tree? I heard that Bible story once and couldn’t make out what it was on about?
Bartholomew: Yes that’s right. Just after Jesus came into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, he saw a fig tree which didn’t have figs growing on it and so he said the tree would die.
Easter Bunny: That sounds a bit bad tempered! I didn’t think Jesus did bad things.
Bartholomew: Well it wasn’t a bad thing. Jesus was using it as a picture. God’s people were meant to be like a tree with loads of fruit growing on it – producing loads of good stuff through their love and kindness. But they weren’t – because of the way they were living they were like an apple tree with lots of leaves but no apples. And that meant the tree itself was going bad and would have to go! It would end up a bit like that tree in the Vicar’s garden!
Easter Bunny: Wow. No wonder Jesus upset people. But I guess we need the bad stuff pointed out if we’re going to change… in our lives as well.
Bartholomew: Spot on Easter Bunny! You’re learning!! It’s all part of what made Jesus the special king. And soon we’re going to find out soon how Jesus was going to take all that bad stuff away. But first we’re going to sing again. So let’s stand and sing ‘What a friend we have in Jesus’…
Song: What a Friend we have in Jesus
Easter Bunny: Well that was a bit more comforting. Nice to know that Jesus wants to be our friend…
Bartholomew: Yes that’s really important … and the way that Jesus showed this was important too.
Easter Bunny: What do you mean?
Bartholomew: I’ll tell you in a minute. Here is one of my fellow disciples, Thaddaeus.
(Thaddaeus comes on)
Thaddaeus: (shaking his head) Very, very strange.
Easter Bunny: What’s strange?
Thaddaeus: The evening I’ve just had with Jesus. Very strange in all sorts of ways
Bartholomew: I was there and I agree. But why do you call it strange, Thaddaeus?
Thaddaeus: Well Jesus got us together in a room and we assumed that we were there to celebrate Passover – you know the special meal that we Jews have once a year to remember God rescuing us from slavery in Egypt, taking us through the Red Sea and off towards the Promised Land – all that stuff.
Easter Bunny: And didn’t you?
Thaddeus: Well we did … but with some big differences. At Passover we’d normally eat a lamb but this time there wasn’t one. The bread and wine were there as usual but when Jesus took them, he said they stood for his body and blood. And rather than remembering the escape from Egypt, he said that whenever we had that meal in the future we had to do it in remembrance of him. I didn’t really understand it at all.
Bartholomew: Yes, it was a bit strange. And what happened next Thaddaeus?
Thaddaeus: Well it got even stranger. We were used to Jesus being our leader and a few of us had started to really hope that he would be the special king to drive out the Romans and set us free. But do you know what he did? Jesus got a towel and a bowl of water, got down on his hands and knees and started to wash our feet! Just like a servant would! So strange!
(Thaddaeus goes off shaking his head)
Easter Bunny: Well that is odd. You can’t be both a servant and a king, can you? Either you’re a king in charge of people and telling them what to do or you’re a servant being told what to do. Isn’t that right?
Bartholomew: Well perhaps not. We’ve sung about Jesus being our friend and perhaps he did that by being a ‘Servant King’.
Easter Bunny: A Servant King? I’ve never heard of one of those before.
Bartholomew: Well perhaps we’d better sing about it as a way of helping you learn.
Song: The Servant King
Easter Bunny: Wow I am learning a lot this morning. So Jesus came to be the special king but in way that no one expected?
Bartholomew: Spot on Easter Bunny. And he did this by becoming the Servant King!
Easter Bunny: So was there nothing in the Bible stories that meant that people saw this coming?
Bartholomew: Well there was lots of stuff about God sending a special king – someone who would be a bit like King David – and there was some other stuff – particularly in Isaiah – about there being a special servant. But, before Jesus came, no one had thought how those two things might go together…
Easter Bunny: Well it does make sense of a lot of the things that Jesus did, doesn’t it? Showing God’s love to people by healing them, getting rid of the bad stuff from people’s lives and being kind to people who no one else had time for.
Bartholomew: That’s right. And a lot of us disciples were really slow to wake up to this. So much so that he once had to tell two of us – James and John, if I remember rightly, that he came ‘not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many’
Easter Bunny: ‘To give his life as a ransom for many’? I’m not sure I understand what that means.
Bartholomew: Well the best way to understand it is if we sing about it. Our next song is a bit of a sad one if I’m honest but a happy one at the same time.
Easter Bunny: Sad and happy at the same time? I don’t understand.
Bartholomew: You will in a bit. Let’s sing the song…
Song: There is a Green Hill Far Away
Easter Bunny: Well that’s really sad. So Jesus – the person who was so full of God’s love and truth – was killed. Those priests who he had got so annoyed by what he did in the Temple were able to get him?
Bartholomew: Yes and not just the priests. There was loads of bad stuff involved in the death of Jesus. All of us disciples ran away rather than staying with him – we were scared you see. The Roman governor Pontius Pilate knew that Jesus had done nothing wrong but in the end, rather weakly, he gave into the people who hated Jesus. And then the Romans took Jesus and put him on a cross to die with everyone who was there saying nasty things and being really horrible to him.
Easter Bunny: This is so sad. But you said it was happy as well – I just can’t see it!!
Bartholomew: Well there are two ways in which it’s happy. One – that we’ll see in a minute is that Jesus didn’t stay dead – he came alive again! But the other really important one is what Jesus’ death made happen
Easter Bunny: What Jesus’ death made happen? What do you mean? Surely someone dying doesn’t make anything happen? They just die?
Bartholomew: Well you know we spoke about Jesus being full of God’s love – totally and utterly?
Easter Bunny: Yes but so what?
Bartholomew: Well when Jesus died, all of that bad stuff that put him there – the anger of the priests, the cruelty of the Romans, the weakness of people like me and his other friends, the meanness of everyone there – all of that bad stuff (evil we sometimes call it) came face to face with God’s total and utter love. And guess what – that love was more powerful than all of the bad stuff and took away its power!
Easter Bunny: Oh is that the reason why they call the day that Jesus died, ‘Good Friday’?
Bartholomew: Spot on, Easter Bunny!! You’re learning, aren’t you?
Easter Bunny: (suspiciously) But how can we know all that stuff was true about God’s love breaking the power of the bad stuff when Jesus died? Sounds a bit far-fetched to me.
Bartholomew: Well for at least three reasons.
Easter Bunny: Go on…
Bartholomew: Well first of all at the point Jesus died on that cross, the big curtain in the Temple split from top to bottom. And that showed that because of Jesus’ death, all of the bad stuff keeping people away from God had been taken away.
Easter Bunny: Wow. So every bad thing I’ve ever done was taken away?
Bartholomew: Yep, you and everyone here. Because Jesus died, we could all be forgiven and come close to God. And that’s links to the second thing that showed this. Get ready everyone to welcome the Roman Centurion who was in charge when Jesus died…
Easter Bunny: I’m not sure I want to welcome him. In fact I suggest we boo him instead…
(The Roman Centurion comes on to massive booing led by the Easter Bunny)
Easter Bunny: You might look sad, but you deserve everything you get for being part of killing Jesus. You’re totally horrible!!
Roman Centurion: Yes I deserve the booing. I was as horrible and cruel as anyone. We dressed Jesus up as a king to be nasty to him and we even put a sign above him on the cross laughing at the idea that anyone might think he was the special king. We were really horrible and he did nothing at back to us. Nothing at all. But something really amazing then happened to me when Jesus died…
Bartholomew: I think we need to hear this everyone so let’s quieten down. What happened Centurion?
Roman Centurion: Well it was really odd. When Jesus died, having shown all of that love, a strange power made me suddenly realise that he was the Son of God. And I said as much – ‘Truly this man was the Son of God’. Those were the words that I said. I don’t completely understand it but I knew that something incredible had just happened through this special servant king…
(Roman Centurion goes off shaking his head)
Easter Bunny: Wow, that’s stranger than anything so far. A Roman Centurion – one of the soldiers putting Jesus to death – declared that Jesus was the Son of God. What was all that about?
Bartholomew: Well you know we just heard about the curtain ripping in the Temple to show that everyone could now come to God? Well that means everyone. God’s love had won such a mighty victory that everyone – no matter how bad the things that they had done – could now come to God. Even that Roman centurion!
Easter Bunny: Wow this is amazing.
Bartholomew: Yes but the most amazing bit is still to come. Because Jesus was so full of God’s love and because that love is more powerful than any of the bad stuff, Jesus didn’t stay dead. He came alive again!
Easter Bunny: Came alive again. After being dead? Really?
Bartholomew: Yes he did. And we’re going to sing about it now. The next song starts off by talking about Jesus dying but then it speaks about how he came alive again!!
Song: Led like a lamb
Easter Bunny: So let me get this straight. Jesus was so full of God’s love that the bad stuff that was beaten by God’s love even included death?
Bartholomew: Spot on Easter Bunny, spot on!!
Easter Bunny: I’m not sure I can get my head round this. If that’s true, it changes everything about this world, doesn’t it? Everything!!
Bartholomew: It sure does. And to understand that a bit more, let’s meet the very first people who realised that Jesus had come alive again. They were the women who followed Jesus. Unlike the men, they hadn’t run away and they came to his tomb early on the very first Easter morning to put spices on his body. They were really the original Spice Girls and so let’s welcome them on this morning…
Wanabee plays as the three Spice Girls come in
Easter Bunny: So you’re the original Spice Girls? I’ve always wanted to meet you. So who are you?
Mary Magdalene: Well I’m Mary Magdalene – probably the most famous of the Spice Girls. My life was in such a mess before I meet Jesus that I guess people could call me ‘Scary Spice’. But that all changed when I met Jesus. I’m now ‘Nice Spice’
Easter Bunny: And who are the rest of you?
Salome: Well I’m Salome Spice!
Joanna: And I’m Joanna Spice!
Easter Bunny: Well you look very happy. Why, when your friend Jesus had just died?
Mary Magdalene: Well we weren’t happy at first. We were heart-broken as that song has just said.
Salome: Jesus had changed our lives you see.
Joanna: Yes, as women, we were used to being treated as unimportant. Men at the time were seen as much more important than women. But Jesus treated us totally differently. He gave us respect and love.
Salome: Yes, and that respect and love gave us a hope we had never had before…
Joanna: But then that hope disappeared when he died. We were watching and saw it happen and we were powerless to do anything about it.
Salome: All of our hopes seem to have gone up in smoke…
Mary Magdalene: Until, that is we came to his tomb early on Easter morning – the place where he had been buried. Carrying our spices to anoint his body. And we found the tomb empty! At first we thought someone had taken his body away but fairly soon we discovered that it was because Jesus had risen from the dead! He had come alive again! God’s love was so powerful in beating the bad stuff in this world that it had even beaten death itself. Incredible but true!!
Salome: Yep, and that changed our lives because all that hope that Jesus had given us came flooding back. Jesus coming alive again changes everything because it shows us that however much bad stuff remains in this world, it isn’t going win!
Joanna: Yes, and that is such an encouragement to us to keep showing love when the bad stuff happens because we know that God’s love is now in charge of this world. Jesus is alive, God’s new creation is already underway and what is so totally fab is that we can be part of it!!
Bartholomew: Well thank you Spice Girls. You’ve helped us to understand what Easter is all about. You can go now…
(Wanabee music again as the Spice Girls depart back to the congregation)
Easter Bunny: Wow, now I get what Easter is all about. Jesus coming to be the special king but in a way that no one expected – as the servant king full of God’s love in way that meant that all of the bad stuff in this world was beaten by that love and had its power taken away. All the bad things that we have done, all the bad things done to us, even death itself.
Bartholomew: Yep, spot on Easter Bunny. Easter is all about the power of God’s love in Jesus breaking the power of sin and evil – they are other words that we can use for the bad stuff – showing that God’s new world of love and hope had begun and declaring that we can be part of it.
Easter Bunny: Well I’m not sure about that last bit. The Easter Bunny wasn’t in the story we’ve just heard so how can I be part of it?
Bartholomew: You can be part of it because everyone is invited to be part of it – no one is left out of the invitation to become God’s Easter People.
Easter Bunny: Really? There’s even a place for the Easter Bunny?
Bartholomew: Of course! The important thing is to know what Easter is all about. And now you do know, what about coming back on Easter Day and giving chocolate eggs to all of the children in this church?
Easter Bunny: Really, do people want me here?
Bartholomew: Let’s ask them. Now that he knows what Easter is all about, shall we ask the Easter Bunny to come back on Easter Day and give chocolate eggs to all of the children?
(Lots of ‘I can’t hear you’ whipping the children up into an Easter frenzy)
Bartholomew: Well I think we’re done. Let’s sing our final song this morning. A great celebration of Jesus coming alive again and what it can mean for our lives – Shine, Jesus Shine
Song: Shine Jesus Shine