We’re officially in Lent, the period of 40 days, which comes before Easter in the Christian calendar. It’s a time of preparation for Easter, and, in many Christian traditions, a season of remorse. I think Lent can serve a good purpose even for people who are not in liturgical churches and don’t observe or think about it much.
For many Christians, there’s a sense in which we get surprised by Easter. There’s such a long ramp-up to Christmas every year. And then it’s over and the new year starts and we’re all busy and all of a sudden there’s Palm Sunday and then Easter is here. The central celebration of Christianity doesn’t even have a school vacation the week before it anymore.
But, we can take our hearts through a process to get them ready for Easter.
As the early Christians observed the days of our Lord’s passion and resurrection, it became a custom to prepare for this with a season of penitence and fasting. During the season of Lent, converts to the faith were prepared for Holy Baptism. Lent was also a time when those who had been separated from the body because of notorious sins, were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness and restored to the body. This reminded the entire congregation of the need for believers to repent of sin and have their faith renewed.
Christians are often uncomfortable with a whole lot of lament and remorse. But something has gone wrong. It’s called sin. There are things in our lives that are not how they were meant to be. We acknowledge that when we confess our sin. This Lenten period of 40 days before Easter is a good time to examine ourselves afresh and reflect further on how we’ve fallen short. Certain rituals and scripture passages can help our thinking.
We acknowledge the fact that men were created out of the dust of the earth and our bodies will return to that form. We are thus reminded of our mortality. And of our sinfulness. Psalm 51 helps us confess sin. Meditating on John chapter 15 helps us remember again that we derive our spiritual life as we abide in the true vine, Christ.
People give things up for Lent. Even good things. This is not to earn brownie points, but to focus our attention more fully on Jesus. It’s saying no to something important, so we can know the Lord better. To make God the highest pursuit of our lives.
This is, of course, countercultural.
The culture doesn’t even know what is true anymore. It cannot say what sin is except perhaps to call evil good and good evil.
Believing saint, in our nation, Christianity is still popular but it’s no longer mainstream. It’s a good moment to step forward and embrace some type of intentional preparation for the celebration of the resurrection of Christ and His victory over sin and the grave.