Lent: A Season of Preparation
by Ava Pennington
It seems as if we’ve only just left the season of Advent and Christmas behind. Valentine’s Day was a small blip on our radar before Lent and Easter rushed off the pages of our calendars and into our already busy lives. And all too often, this period of spiritual preparation easily ends up as yet another item on our overflowing to-do lists.
As we move through the season of Lent, let’s take a moment to clarify its significance in the life of a Christian.
Lent is a period of forty days, beginning Ash Wednesday and culminating in the celebration of Christ’s resurrection on Easter Sunday. While often associated with fasting from eating meat or a favorite dessert, Lent is more than simply giving up chocolate or a juicy steak for six weeks.
The spiritual discipline of fasting from particular foods or a preferred activity is a picture of Jesus’ forty days of fasting in the wilderness during His temptation. It prompts us to remember, mourn and repent of our sin—the sin Christ paid for by His sacrifice on the cross. The weeks of Lent bring us to the Last Supper and Jesus’ washing of His disciples’ feet on Maundy Thursday. It leads us through Christ’s crucifixion on Good Friday. And it culminates in Easter Sunday as His resurrection proclaims victory over sin and death.
Lent is also a time when we join with other believers in our worship community as we recognize all our Savior has done for us. It provides the perfect opportunity to dwell on the character of God and the beauty of our salvation.
Giving Up and Giving Out
Still, what would happen if, along with giving up something, we also give out something? What if we use these weeks to do more than just abstain from food or activities we enjoy?
Consider these suggestions:
Use the time gained fasting from food or activities to focus on God’s Word.
How appropriate for us, in the days and weeks leading up to Easter, to reflect on all Christ fulfilled for those who trust Him as Savior: His sinless life, substitutionary death and glorious resurrection. Read through one of the gospel accounts. Or focus on the final week of Jesus’ earthly ministry in chapters twelve through twenty-one of John’s gospel. This period of reflection can also encourage us to spend additional time in prayer and repentance for our own sin.
Focus on a new description of Jesus each day.
One way to help us reflect on all Easter signifies is to explore the various names and descriptions of Jesus Christ found in God’s Word. Messiah, Son of God, Son of Man, Immanuel, Bread of Life, Bridegroom, Lamb of God and Redeemer are just a few of the names, titles and attributes for Jesus found in the Bible. Select one name each day during Lent. Post it in a prominent place and have each family member list the significance of that name to him or her. Then discuss it as a family around the dinner table.
Serve with your family outside your comfort zone.
Plan an activity to help a neighbor, or volunteer with an organization assisting those less fortunate. This will require giving up time or resources that would have been spent in other ways. But it also provides an opportunity to give of ourselves in situations that can point others to the One whose death and resurrection we will celebrate in a few weeks.
Despite a busy schedule—or perhaps because of it—give yourself the gift of Lenten observation. The days leading up to Easter help us examine ourselves and shift our focus from the temporal to the eternal. May the joy of your Easter celebration be made even sweeter because of your preparation during these weeks of Lent!
Ava Pennington is a speaker and author of Reflections on the Names of God: 180 Devotions to Know God More Fully. She teaches a Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) class, and is a member of the Christian Authors Network and the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. Learn more at www.AvaPennington.com.