The season of Lent begins this Wednesday, and I am oddly looking forward to it. (Odd because Lent means I’ll be giving up something that I enjoy for 40 days. Is it weird to look forward to that? Probably.)
I didn’t grow up celebrating Lent, but I decided a few years ago to try it out, and I’ve done it ever since. One thing I’ve really appreciated about the season is that it prepares me for the joy and celebration of Easter in a way that I had never experienced before.
Christmas happens every year on Dec. 25. I always know when it’s coming, how many days I have left to shop and bake and prepare for Jesus’ birth. But because Easter comes at a different time each spring, I’ve often felt like it has sneaked up on me. I suddenly realize Easter is the next Sunday, so I pull out my spring clothes and spend a day or so thinking about Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. Lent has changed all that for me. I now know exactly how many days are left before we experience the somber recognition of Good Friday and the joyful celebration of Resurrection Sunday. When I give something up, I am reminded — every time I have an urge for that thing — that I am simply dust; nothing I do is salvific, and only Christ has the power to save.
For the last year or so, I have been attending a church that is very Jesus-loving, evangelical and Spirit-driven. They also do liturgy every week and observe the liturgical seasons. Last Lenten season I discovered that during Lent we do not say any of our normal “alleluias” during our church service. We are anticipating Christ’s death and the horrific time when the Son of God was carrying the weight of our sin on the cross. The services are quieter than usual and a bit more somber.
But then — then — Resurrection Sunday comes. I have never been more moved by the power of Christ’s resurrection than I was last Easter at my church. Lent was over, and we were so joyful because Jesus had conquered sin and death — He had risen! Our pastor shouted “alleluias” all over the place. The congregation slipped them in everywhere, adding them during singing and the sermon and the Scripture readings. The season of fasting was over, the cross had accomplished its work, Jesus had risen from the dead.
Of course, these things are always true — Christ is victorious every single day of the year — but Lent is such a great tangible reminder that we are dust, and Christ has done the work for us. It reminds me of the biblical holidays, how God commanded His people to remember the things He had done for them through the things they built, or ate, or didn’t eat. Lent has been a good way for me to remember the beautiful thing that Jesus had done for me, to anticipate the joy of His resurrection and to be grateful for the grace He has provided.
If you want to learn more about Lent, I suggest Lauren Winner’s “Ash Wednesday Evangelism,” which Boundless published a few years ago. Also, if you’re considering giving something up for Lent, Blood: Water Mission (a nonprofit founded by the members of Jars of Clay) does 40 Days of Water every year. They encourage you to give up all other drinks and donate what you would have spent so they can help build clean wells in Africa.
Do you observe Lent? What have you learned from the season?
Copyright 2012 Denise Morris Snyder. All rights reserved.