Lent is essentially about three things – Reality, Love and Good News.
- Reality – there is a lost-ness within me, and those around me, that comes out in many and desperate ways, imprisons me, and keeps me from being the person I could be.
- Love – there is Someone who cares so much about me that He will do anything to help.
- Good News – there is a way forward into Love and Life.
Lent is firstly focussed on God – His Majesty, Glory and Love. It then looks at me – where I am in response to and in relationship with Him – and how to be closer both to Him and to my true self.
Lent is both a humbling and empowering journey from our darkness into God’s great love and glorious light. As we embark upon it we discover that it is actually about God’s journey of light into our darkness.
In the West Lent starts on Ash Wednesday which this year falls on 5 March.
Good Friday is on 18 April and Easter Sunday on 20 April.
The ‘40 days’ of Lent are associated with the 40 days of Jesus fasting in the desert. The 6 Sundays are excluded in the calculation as they are said to represent either the day of rest or the day of Jesus victory over death. For Christians over the ages Lent has been a period of fasting, self-examination and penitence – a time when people are reminded both of their need for salvation, the sufferings and death of Christ on their behalf and the victory of Jesus over sin and death. In many ways what is known as the Lent fast has been trivialised as some people have given up little indulgences and felt quite good about it. The true significance of Lent is not what I give up for God but the awesome sacrifice that Christ made for me, and the self –denial and suffering that was involved. Any sacrifice of ours should be a reminder to us of that greater sacrifice, and not a source of merely personal satisfaction. Scripturally our sacrifice is between God and ourselves and should be kept private. This year you might also like to think of doing a special act of kindness for someone every day – especially for someone with a need.
In many churches there will be special services on Ash Wednesday to mark the beginning of the Journey to Easter. The theme is Penitence. Ashes will be blessed and used as a symbol of repentance. Many people will go forward to be marked with the sign of the cross, in ashes, on their forehead. These ashes are normally prepared from the Palm Crosses used on Palm Sunday the previous year.
Lent is a wonderful occasion for us to reflect on the holiness and love of God, the enormous blessing of knowing Him – and the great need for Him in our lives and the life of the world in which we live today.
Father – please help me to walk this journey every day, and in doing so to find more of You. Please shine Your light into my places of darkness and let me know more of Your love. Amen.