I had lots of Catholic friends I knew growing up and heard something of Lent, but I never really knew what it was. It wasn’t until my post-college days that I knew anyone who wasn’t Catholic who participated in Lent. It intrigued me. One year I even decided to give up chocolate for lent. It wasn’t until about a week after I had messed up that I even realized I had eaten an Oreo, so then I just gave up all together!
Fast forward several years and I was working at a Nursery and Preschool Ministry Director at our church. They decided to join forces with another local church for a huge Lent Celebration. Neither church was Catholic. Apparently Lent was a big enough deal for protestant families that I needed to check it out. Not only that, but we were in charge of helping put together a program for the kids! It was time to get busy.
What is Lent?
Lent, in essence, is 40 day period in which we prepare for Easter. 40 days?! That’s a lot! But Christmas gets a lot of hype, so why not Easter? After all, if it weren’t for the message of a risen savior on Easter, Christmas wouldn’t mean much anyway! Specifically, it is 40 days because Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness being tempted by Satan before He began His ministry. It is a time for us to self-reflect, repent, fast, and prepare our hearts for the Easter season. It’s a time that many choose something to give up as a way to deny themselves, just as Jesus denied Himself in the desert. Take heart, though. You get a break from this fast on Sundays because Sundays are a celebration of the coming Easter!
What is Ash Wednesday?
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday (another word you may be unfamiliar with if you are not Catholic) and goes until Holy Saturday, the day before Easter. It is called Ash Wednesday because many people rub a cross made of ashes on their foreheads. Ashes were used in the Bible as symbols of repentance and mourning.
Lent wasn't specifically mentioned in the Bible, but repentance and fasting were. Click To Tweet
So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.” Daniel 9:3 NIV
Should We Celebrate Lent Too?
While Ash Wednesday and Lent were not specifically mentioned in the Bible, repentance, fasting, and preparing our hearts for Jesus was.
Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out,that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.” Acts 3:19 NIV
Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” Matthew 4:17 NIV
When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:16-18
It seems that Jesus expects us to fast sometimes. It is a spiritual discipline that many of us Christians have gotten away from. Perhaps this might be a good time to practice it. It doesn’t have to be food–just something important to you.
Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” James 4:8-10 NIV
Since Lent in not mandated in the Bible, the choice is a personal one. If you are convinced that it is something that might be good for your family to observe, here are a few ideas that we are doing this year. You can find more on my Lent Pinterest board.
- Follow a Lent Calendar
- Make a Lent Bible Verse Tree
- Make an Almsgiving (offering) Cross
- Make a Salt Dough Crown of Thorns to be replaced with a Crown of Jewels
Practicing Lent may be out of your comfort zone, but it will definitely be meaningful! I would love to hear how your Lent celebrations go!
Do you practice Lent? What activities do you do in preparation for Easter?