It was exciting to have my first Christmas Eve with you! We are now approaching the season of Lent which begins with Ash Wednesday on February 26.
The United Methodist Church Discipleship Ministries shares this introduction to Lent:
Lent is a season of forty days, not counting Sundays, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday. The English word “Lent” comes from the Anglo–Saxon word lencten, which means “lengthen” and refers to the lengthening days of "spring." In many other languages, the word used for this season refers to the 40-day length of the season (cuaresma in Spanish and Tagalog, carême in French) or to the fasting that characterizes it (Fastenzeit in German, fastan in Swedish, posta in Russian). The season is a preparation for celebrating Easter.
Historically, Lent began as a period of fasting and preparation for baptism by converts and then became a time for penance by all Christians. Because Sundays are always little Easters, the penitential spirit of Lent should be tempered with joyful expectation of the Resurrection.
Holy Week is the final week of Lent, beginning with Passion/Palm Sunday describing Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem and concluding with Holy Saturday. It is during these days that the readings focus primarily on the last days and suffering and death of Jesus.
These days proclaim the paschal mystery of Jesus Christ's passion, death, and resurrection. During these days, the community journeys with Jesus from the upper room, to the cross, to the tomb, and to the garden. These services may be connected with a prayer vigil lasting from Holy Thursday evening (or Good Friday) until the first service of Easter and may be accompanied by fasting.
People traditionally fast, sacrificing or “giving up” something for Lent which can often include sweets, meat, fasting a day or half day (as they are physically able), electronics or swearing. We choose to give up things that distract us or are things we love as a symbol of our desire to sacrifice for God. This is a small glimpse of Jesus’ great sacrifice for us. I often struggle more than I expect with something simple and am humbled as I reflect on God’s great, great love for us.
Others may also choose to be proactive and “take on” something. This can include adding spiritual disciplines to your routine like prayer, reading scripture or meditation with others. Some choose to be proactive in serving God and others we know or in the community during Lent with tangible actions.
I have to admit that giving up something tends to get my attention more. Fasting reminds us of our dependence on God. It reminds us of the many who go without, not by their own choice, and what an abundance we take for granted. Fasting becomes an opportunity for prayer and seeking God instead of filling it with another distraction.
Please consider reflecting and observing a Lenten fast in solidarity and sacrifice with Jesus. Let us join our hearts as we prepare for the wonder of the resurrection!