I must confess that I grew up in an evangelical culture that did not place great emphasis on the liturgical calendar. Words like “advent” and “lent” belonged to “those churches.” Over the years, advent wreaths and calendars began to be used by some, but lent, and the idea of ashes and abstinence never really caught on. As I studied the history of the concept, I found some baggage attached to lent that made me feel uncomfortable embracing the practice as a whole. Yet, the idea of taking an extended period of time to focus on the holiness of God and my own proper response to Him, of remembering the atoning sacrifice of Christ for sinful mankind, of being awed by His glorious and powerful resurrection, and of using focused prayer and fasting to seek and find Him appeals to me greatly. The Jews recognized their New Year, Rosh Hashanah, their most high and holy day, Yom Kippur, and the time period of ten days including those holidays as “days of awe” or “days of repentance” – a special season to focus on repentance and getting right with God. Why not have the same emphasis leading up to a remembrance and celebration of what Jesus did to free us from sin and death?
One must be careful not to think that observing such days is necessary to have a relationship with God. Following certain practices or holidays does not make one righteous. Paul said, “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ (Colossians 2:16-17 ESV). Things like “days of awe” or even our Christian holidays are not given to us to make us holy, but to remind us of the One who does – Jesus Christ (read the rest of Colossians 2). What I would like to do over these next 40 days (leading up to Good Friday and Easter) is write about some things that remind you about Him. Reading my thoughts, giving up certain things, or following certain practices won’t clean up your heart or change your life. But meeting Jesus Christ will. “Lent” comes from the Old English “lengten,” or spring. These “lengthened” days remind us that new life is coming. May I take some time to remind you that new life is only found in Christ? I will use daily Scriptures from Redeemer Presbyterian’s reading plan, “A Journey Through Lent” as the starting point for my meditation, but will add my personal thoughts. Please read along if you need the reminder, as I do.