We've enjoyed doing this, but it has been more challenging than the Jesse Tree, for several reasons:
1) The Jesse Tree tended to focus on clear stories of people who were in the genealogy of Christ. It is quite easy for young children to visualise some of these stories, or to have at least a superficial understanding of who people were, where they had come from, the key events of the story (and possibly how they fitted into the genealogy of Christ - my eldest seemed to understand this more than I expected).
2) In the Life of Jesus, I have tried to focus on actual physical events (such as miracles, having his feet anointed, finding a coin in the mouth of a fish, events surrounding his betrayal, arrest and trial) rather than on teachings, fulfilled prophecies or other aspects which are important but might seem more nebulous to a child. However, even so, there have been some parts they have found very tricky indeed! For example, John Chapter 3, and the story of Nicodemus going to Jesus at night. They have no problems with Nicodemus going out under cover of darkness, and they quite liked that part. But Jesus' teaching, so familiar to most of us adults, was quite difficult for them. What does it mean to be 'born of flesh and born of spirit'? What does it mean to be 'born again'? Also, Jesus uses irony: 'Can a man enter again into his mother's womb?' - but the boys don't yet appreciate irony and how keep asking whether they could go back into my tummy, and what that would be like!
3) It challenges me because we try to use the whole of Scripture and not to present 'child-friendly' or diluted versions. The reason for this is that there have been many occasions where we have been stunned by their accurate understanding of areas of our faith that many older people really struggle with. It is very much the 'childlike faith' that Jesus commends. In fact, we have found presenting a simplified story, or missing out on some of the less pleasant aspects (such as in the story of Noah, the fact that most people who were alive at that time would have died in the flood) just tends to cause more confusion.
4) It is delightful to hear their questions and see them trying to bring it all together. We try to provide them with the tools - the Bible in its fullness, a listening and patient parent available to answer many questions and provide clarifications, other resources, books and stories, biographies of believers, sometimes Bible cartoons - to enable them to do so. So perhaps the fact there have been some days when the questions have seemed unending is evidence of them grappling with the most important truths. So perhaps I should rather be rejoicing that the timeline project has stimulated them to think and weigh things up.
Tonight my five year old wrote a hymn on a piece of paper and secretly brought it upstairs so he could sing it to us at bedtime. It went 'God is good all the time. He is amazing. He died on the cross to save us from our sins', and had a slightly undulating tune. But it was great to hear his spontaneous song of praise. Over the past week my youngest, who has just turned three, has also started to sing these 'new songs'.
The boys are asking for the next Christmas timeline, and whether or not we can do timelines in Africa. There is something about the pictorial representation of the stories that builds up day after day until it is complete that really captivates them, and I'm pleased we have found something which can be a simple family tradition.
How do you keep Christ central at Easter in your family?