In the following interview, Marty shares more about the unique format and how families can start a new Easter tradition.
Q: Your newest book, Darkest Night Brightest Day, is for families to read together around Easter. Tell us more about the unique format.
Darkest Night Brightest Day is an illustrated family Bible study on the week of Jesus’s life leading up to his death and the appearances of our Lord after his resurrection leading up to his ascension. This Holy Week/Easter week book harmonizes the Gospel accounts leading up to and following the first Easter morning to retell the complete story in a conversational way young children can grasp.
Darkest Night Brightest Day is designed to begin on Palm Sunday with the triumphal entry of our Lord into Jerusalem. The first half of the book, Darkest Night, has seven stories that recount the events of Passion Week ending with Christ’s crucifixion and burial. Then on Easter Sunday, you flip the book over and continue by reading Brightest Day with seven more stories that progress from Christ’s resurrection through Pentecost. Children are sure to remember the contrast between the darkness at the death of our Lord and the light-filled events from Christ’s resurrection onward.
I suggest families start a tradition of reading the first half recounting the Passion Week and positioning the book prominently in their home with the Darkest Night cover showing. Then Saturday night, after the children go to bed, flip the book upside down and around to show the Brightest Day side of the book on a white cloth and cover it with Easter morning treats for an Easter morning surprise.
There are a number of Passion Week devotionals available for families, and a few more include Easter week, but none of these are illustrated and flip upside down like Darkest Night Brightest Day. I wanted a book that would make celebrating Easter engaging and fun.
Q: How did the idea to create an upside down and backwards book come about?
When the apostle Paul shared the gospel story with the Jews in Thessalonica, saying, “that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead” (Acts 17:3 ESV), some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas. But others became upset and formed a mob and accused Paul and his followers with these words, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also” (Acts 17:6).
The gospel message happily turns the life of anyone who believes it upside down. Sin is flipped for righteousness, judgment for mercy, and condemnation for forgiveness. The resurrection turns death on its head so that it is no more. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:25–26).
Q: Does that message of turning the world upside run through Darkest Night Brightest Day as well?
The message of Darkest Night Brightest Day is the age-old story of the gospel. John announced Jesus as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Jesus plainly taught that “the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again” (Mark 8:31).
At his death, the Roman centurion declared, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39) at his death. And the angels told the women at the tomb, “He has risen, as he said” (Matthew 28:6). Darkest Night Brightest Day puts the story together so children can make sense of the gospel.
The upside-down book is a way to capture the life-transforming effect of the gospel.
Q: How long does it take to read each devotional? Does the time commitment vary based on the age of the kids in the family?
Darkest Night Brightest Day is targeted at families with preschool/grade school children. Still, those who make reading this Easter devotional a tradition with their family can use it all the way through the teen years, as the meat of the book is the retelling the story of the gospel in a way that both children and adults can enjoy.
The individual devotions in Darkest Night Brightest Day are short and easy to read through in a few minutes. Families can easily complete a devotion in ten minutes. I’ve found the best time for family devotions is after dinner, before dessert. Other families read just before bed or gather in the morning before their day begins.
Q: In addition to reading the devotional each day, are there ways to extend the conversation and go deeper, especially with older children?
Each devotional includes notations of the scripture notations for where the day’s story originated, so the family can read those passages together. At the end of each reading there are also several discussion questions for the family to talk about together.
Q: Why is it so important to use family devotionals such as Darkest Night Brightest Day regularly within the home?
Parents worry about the spiritual condition of their children’s souls and desperately want them to follow Christ. The reality, though, is that only God can change a heart. But he has given us a tool in the gospel that allows us to participate in the miraculous work of salvation.
The gospel is the seed we plant in the heart of our children, and our prayers are the water over that seed. Paul said it is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). Charles Spurgeon said the gospel is “meat for men, but it is also milk for babes.”
I’ve written Darkest Night Brightest Day as well as other resources to provide parents with tools that will help them share the life-transforming gospel with their children.
Q: Even though your own family has grown past the time of everyone coming together for family devotionals, you still enjoy writing for young families, don’t you?
The Lord has blessed me with six beautiful children and now five grandchildren. With only two of my children still at home, the days of pulling the kids together to do family devotions are complete. But a page has turned to a new chapter in my life. I now get to read gospel-rich books to my grandkids.
One of the joys of writing about the gospel and looking for creative ways to retell it to children is that I get to steep in the gospel every day. Most of my mornings begin with prayer, study, and then writing for kids about the old, old story. There is nothing like reflecting on the gospel to start your day right.
Whichever celebration of Easter you choose for your family, be sure to not allow “nothing” to become your Easter tradition and let the Bible take priority over the hollow traditions our culture offers.
Darkest Night Brightest Day
Start a new Easter season tradition with your family by reading this “upside-down” book from Marty Machowski. The first side, Darkest Night, has seven stories that recount the events of Passion week ending with Christ’s crucifixion and burial. Flip the book over and continue by reading Brightest Day with seven more stories that progress from Christ’s resurrection through Pentecost.