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Why Lent?

We are about to enter the season of Lent, beginning with the observance of Ash Wednesday on February 14. The church has been celebrating Lent for at least 1700 years (probably more), using the 40 days before Easter as a time of prayer, fasting, and preparation. But as with all good church traditions, Lent exists not simply to occupy our time or give us something to do, but for our benefit. The bottom line is this: we are about to reflect on the most important week in human history, so we prepare.

We are about to ponder the death of our Lord for our sins. During Lent we follow the journey that Christ makes as he ends His public ministry and turns towards Jerusalem, towards the cross. In Lent we examine ourselves, recognizing that the reason Jesus must make this journey, the reason he must be mocked, the reason he must suffer, and the reason he must die is your sin and mine. We lament the fact that our sins caused such grief and pain for our Lord. We rejoice that out of His great love for us He bore the burden and punishment for our sins. In light of what Christ has done, we devote ourselves anew to the never-ending task of purging our lives of sin by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Lent is a “penitential season”, a time of preparation and fasting. While we have no Biblical command to fast during Lent (feel free to have a steak on Fridays), fasting can be a helpful tool for reflection and spiritual growth. Oftentimes Christians choose to “give something up” in an effort to deprive their bodies and reflect on their own sins, as well as the work of Christ to deal with those sins. If you were in Christian freedom to refrain from meat on Fridays, it could serve as a reminder to you of what Christ has done, a “marker” in your life to break you from your routine and cause you to reflect. Perhaps more effective is fasting that leaves you time for prayer and the reading of Scripture, such as refraining from television or another activity. We are free in the Gospel to fast or not to fast during Lent, but the practice is certainly worth considering.

The entire church does fast during Lent. We fast from the word “Alleluia” in our worship services. “Alleluia” means “praise Yahweh”, or “praise the Lord”. This is done with a purpose. In Lent we spend time reflecting on our sins and what Christ did on the cross. This is a somber thing to consider. God the Father allowed His Son to die for your sins. But in addition to the less joyful tone provided by the absence of Alleluia during lent brings, it also intensifies the joy of Easter Sunday. We can’t go back and experience that joy of the first Easter the way the disciples did. We know going in that Jesus isn’t going to stay dead! But our Lenten fast from this word allows us to appreciate that joy as we hear the chorus “Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia!” on Easter Sunday.

May God bless you as you prepare to reflect on the most important week in human history when Jesus Christ won your salvation!