Only 25 more shopping days until Lent! Now that's something you probably have never heard. You also never hear, “the commercialization of Lent is just ruining the true meaning of the season for me” or “I am so tired of people taking the 'Christ' out of Lent!” Or maybe, “I can't wait until Lent – it's my favorite time of the year.” Church members never ask the pastor could they please sing the traditional songs during the season of Lent, neither do they schedule a “hanging of the greens (the purple?)” in preparation for Lent.
Let's face it, Lent just doesn't get the attention Advent or Easter gets. And yes, I agree that repentance, fasting, and prayer are not quite the same as caroling, gift giving, drinking eggnog, new Easter dresses, and Easter egg hunts. But really, as Christians, Lent should be central to our faith journey. Perhaps it should be as central as Christmas. Think about it. Christmas is about the birth of Jesus, Lent points to the resurrection of Christ. In the big theological scheme of things, which is more important? I have to say, my vote is with Lent.
So why don't we give Lent a bigger billing in the life of the church? Maybe it gets neglected because the mall doesn't pay much attention to it (not a lot of money to be made on repentance) or maybe because Lent isn't warm and fuzzy (no Lenten version of Santa) or maybe the fact that it's never been a box office hit (Bing Crosby crooning about Lent is hard to imagine). But I think Lent, if we give it some time and attention, could fulfill certain spiritual needs for us and could direct us on our journey of faith.
One spiritual gift that Lent gives us is hope. The word Lent is derived from the Old English lencten, which means “lengthen.” It refers to the lengthening of the daylight hours that occurs in the northern hemisphere as spring approaches. It is in this period of transition from late winter to early spring that the season of Lent falls. What is more hopeful than the coming of spring? The first sign of the end of winter that always gives me a touch of optimism is the lengthening of daylight. By Ash Wednesday it is clear that we have made it through the short dark days and once again we can go for walks in the evening as the sun sets. The beginning of longer days is the beginning of hopefulness.
Another spiritual gift that Lent gives us is renewed energy. There is a momentum to Lent. Every week of Lent is just a little bit warmer and nicer than the week before. It is a season that starts in what is truly winter and ends in the rush of spring. This connection to “seasons” mirrors the events of Holy Week. The dark and dreadful time of the arrest and crucifixion are ended with the glory and beauty of Easter morning. From darkness to light. We may begin in the dreary clutches of February, but we end in the splendor of April.
May we recover the deep and powerful meaning of Lent this year at Zion. Perhaps we can make this Lent one we will never forget – it may even rival Advent!
With the Greatest of Hope,