Growing up in a liturgical church setting, Lent was a somber time of contemplation. Ashes crossed foreheads. The hymn selection on the old pipe organ only included minor, dissonant sounding chords. Black cloth draped the altar. Items were given up. I remember hearing many of my friends complaining about unsingable melodies and the number of services they attended during Holy Week. While I kept my mouth shut about how I really felt, Good Friday, was actually one of my favorite days of the year.
For a long time, saying so made me feel a little bit guilty and morbid. Sure I loved watching the sunrise through stained glass windows on Easter and hearing Lutheran voices belting out “He is risen indeed” with more emotion and joy than you’d hear the congregation use all year long. But what I found equally, if not more, compelling was the quiet reverence and aching sorrow that echoed as each station of the cross was described. The realness of my sin exposed. The penalty willingly endured and paid for by Immanuel–God with us. Even from a young age, I realized that Easter only came through Good Friday. Both equally necessary for redemption to occur.
Lent in many ways has gotten a bad wrap. The idea of giving something up for the 40+ days before Easter in some ways has become highly ritualistic and unattached from what the season really is about. People abstain from certain foods or vices with a desire not to draw closer to God, but to lose weight, be a better person, or even as a way to earn forgiveness. Others attempt to sacrifice because of a desire to win the approval of man or from a distorted view of obligation. On the other extreme, Easter in many ways has become a holiday for consumers. Jelly beans, eggs, and bunnies encourage us to bypass the crucifixion and instead focus on cultural icons tied more closely to sugar and spring than anything else.
The truth is, Lent is about the gospel. It is…
…a time for us to slow down and focus on the work of Christ.
…a season to repent from sin and trust in His work on the cross.
….a reminder that the empty tomb only comes through the cross.
…meant to help us prepare ourselves for the joy of the resurrection as we enter into the sorrow and pain that came first.
…a reminder that we live in the “already, but not yet.”
Lent lasts 40 days excluding Sundays, which makes it about 46 days altogether. This season, we invite your family to participate in a weekly devotional designed to help prepare your family to celebrate the fullness of what Easter truly is. Each week, you will participate in a brief scripture reading, discussion, and prayer time. At the end, you will use candles to remember the darkness of sin and later, the living hope of Easter. Instead of lighting a candle like we might do during Advent, we will extinguish a candle each week as we contemplate the brokenness of sin and Jesus’ journey toward the cross. During the last week, we will relight all 7 candles as a way to celebrate the promise both of the resurrection and what it ultimately points to—the day when Jesus returns to make all things new. You can pick up a copy of the devotional along with a set of seven tea lights while supplies last at the Crossing Kids registration area. You can also download the devotional here.
Since Lent may be a new season for you or a season desperately in need of redemption given your past experiences with it, we have provided a list of additional reading that might help you better understand its significance. Please know that we are praying for you as you help your family contemplate and prepare this season.