Ash Wednesday is this week. Our church does an Ash Wednesday service, and every year I get asked the same question, “Isn’t Ash Wednesday only for Catholics?” Well, the short answer is, “No.” But since this is a blog, I will give a longer answer!
First, Lent is about seasons. Ash Wednesday is the beginning of Lent, which is the season before Easter. In the same way that Advent prepares us for Christmas, Lent prepares us for Easter. Advent is about anticipation – looking forward to the coming of the King. Lent is about sorrowful remembrance – looking back on the sacrifice of Jesus. This season deepens our lives.
Second, Lent is about habits. Many people give up something for Lent, to remind them that Jesus gave up His life for us. Sometimes we give up something that is a bad habit in our lives (Lent is a good time to get rid of those). Other times people give up things that aren’t bad – cookies, soda, games, media, caffeine. (Ok, people could argue that some of those things are bad!) These are meant to be little “triggers”, reminders of Christ throughout the day – when you feel the desire for that thing, you remember the sacrifice of Jesus.
Third, Lent is about sorrow. And there needs to be a time of sorrow. Too often our world is only about happiness. Every commercial sells happiness and promises to make life better. The church can also feel like a place where there is no room for sorrow. Our world has sorrow, and there is a time for sorrow. This is a time where we can experience sorrow for the tragedy and injustice of the world, especially the crucifixion of the Lord.
Finally, Lent is about repentance. There is sorrow because the selfishness and injustice that we see in the world also is alive in us. This is a time to evaluate one’s life and make the changes needed. God speaks to us and calls us higher. This is a time to take the needed steps.
Seasons, habits, sorrow, repentance – Lent is a season for all Christians. It is not usually a season that non-Christians participate in (unlike Advent). This is a season we need, and a season when God can work deeply in a person’s life. So get ready for Lent – it is coming this week!