As we continue our series on observing the Christian Calendar, we move this week to the season of Lent.
Lent: A Season of Darkness; Humbled in the Turning
The Cycle of Life (Contemplating Salvation – God for us) begins with the season of Lent. This is a time to reckon with the reality of darkness and death. And while Lent is a season of darkness, for the Christian, it is not a season without hope. Because this season ends in Easter – in resurrection, in new life. This is a time to prepare.
Lent is both a sojourn and a journey. The sojourn transpires in the desert as Jesus spends forty days alone in self-reflection and discernment of God’s ways. The journey happens on the road to Jerusalem as Jesus moves toward his dark destiny. The sojourn triggers a look inward for acknowledgement of our human and spiritual vulnerabilities. The journey summons us to look outward and weigh the costs of discipleship. Both involve turning.
The forty days of Lent were meant as a reminder to us of the forty days of rain during the flood, in which God purified the world; the forty years of wilderness wandering, in which god purified Israel; and the forty days of Jesus’ fasting in the desert in preparation for his ministry.
The color of Lent is purple which symbolizes repentance.
One of the major observances of Lent is the practice of fasting. Christian fasting is the voluntary denial of something for a specific period of time for a spiritual purpose. This act intentionally creates space in our lives for our relationship with God. It helps make room in our lives for us to listen to God, which often leads us to repentance. In fasting we address our temptations and deny ourselves of certain personal enjoyments. As well, we turn from a self-centered stance to a grace-filled humility. God longs for those blank, empty places in our lives – not for the sake of emptiness, but so he can fill us with Himself.
IDEAS FOR OBSERVING THE SEASON OF LENT
- Fast – create space in your life for your relationship with God.
- Prayerful reading and study of Scripture.
- Read the Crucifixion account in each Gospel.
- Read the same Crucifixion account in multiple versions of the Bible.
- Choose a thoughtful book to read during the season of Lent. Below are some suggestions:
- The Incomparable Christ, J. Oswald Sanders.
- Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross, Nancy Guthrie.
- The View from Mount Calvary: 24 Portraits of the Cross throughout Scripture, John Phillips.
- The Pleasures of God, John Piper.
- The Man Born to be King, Dorothy L. Sayers.
- Walk with Jesus, Charles Swindoll.
- For younger children, use Lenten Lights by Noel Piper for Lenten devotions.
- Repent – creating space in your lives to hear the voice of God speaking to your hearts.
- Practice charity. With money saved by fasting from something of choice, provide for a charitable organization or person or family in need.
- Refrain from having flowers in your home during the season of Lent.
- Lenten Cross – containing seven purple candles, one for each of the Sundays of Lent and one for Maundy Thursday. Extinguish one candle each week entering ever more deeply into the darkness that will culminate in Christ’s death. Light all candles each evening of the first week or one day that week. Extinguish one candle each week of Lent. The last candle should be extinguished on Maundy Thursday (usually the center one).
- Incorporate a visual or tangible symbol into your observance.
- Carry a two inch nail in your pocket during Lent.
- Wear a cross around your neck, perhaps hidden beneath your clothing.
- Place a cross in a noticeable spot within your home.
- Fill your home with reproductions of art on the subject.
- Place a palm branch through your door knocker or somewhere else in your home on Palm Sunday.
If you have decided that this is the year you would like to intentionally observe the Christian Calendar but don’t have any idea where to start, there are two planning resources available to you on the Free Resources page. One is the Calendar Plan (a brief description of the seven seasons and ideas for observing each). The other is a Planning form where you can write out your planned observances for the year.
Next week, we will consider The Paschal Triduum and Easter!
For further reading:
Living the Christian Year: Time to Inhabit the Story of God by Bobby Gross (InterVarsityPress)
The Circle of Seasons: Meeting God in the Church Year by Kimberlee Conway Ireton (InterVarsityPress)
Celebrating the Christian Year: Building Family Traditions around All the Major Christian Holidays by Martha Zimmerman (Bethany House Publishers)