Why we should remember the season evangelicals forget

Jessica Airey emphasizes the importance of celebrating Lent.


Grant Walter

| Grant Walter/THE CHIMES

Jessica Airey, Writer

Consider how strange it would be if we only celebrated birthday parties and never went to funerals. Both are social traditions commemorating significant events in our loved ones’ lives. Christian services honoring a deceased man or woman are bittersweet; in the same way, the church season of Lent is meant to be honored as a time for sober remembrance and reflection on the gravity of the Gospel.

Our culture likes to celebrate holidays that sell — Christmas and Easter are easy to commercialize because they emphasize joy. Little can be siphoned for secular use from a holiday that centers on the tragedy of sin, death and Christ’s sacrifice. Themes of mourning and quietness before God don’t translate well to items that jump off store shelves like chocolate bunnies and candy eggs.

Common misconceptions miss the point

Sadly, it seems many evangelicals think of Lent as simply a time to give something up. Of course, their lack of awareness isn’t without cause: Many of our churches have abandoned practicing Lent altogether. It’s as though we’d rather skip straight to the Easter dessert of the Gospel meal instead of chewing through the proverbial meat and vegetables found in faithful observance of the time between Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

What Lent actually is

I’ve come to find more beauty and significance in this season than any other. When my pastor reverently marks a cross in ash on my forehead, he reminds me of the words in Genesis 3, “From dust you came and to dust you will return.” This coincides with the real purpose of fasting, a discipline that mirrors Jesus’ 40 days in the desert.

Why the sacrifice?

Going without food or comfort for an extended period of time does two important things. First, it reminds us of our humanness and frailty. Recognizing our weakness is the best way to properly readjust our image of how great God is, while simultaneously putting our pride in its place.

Second, the element given up for the season of Lent is supposed to be replaced by purposeful, sacred space spent with God. For example, if I pause long enough to notice that watching TV has begun to consume a substantial portion of my daily habits, I might set that aside for the weeks until Easter. The experience should be had in private between you and God. It’s not an exercise in self-control; it’s removing a distraction, something that is good in and of itself, to make way in our hearts for a deeper understanding of the Gospel.

Less sweet, but essential

Skipping over the passion of Christ, the immensity of his suffering for us and the heartbreak of our severance from the Father, diminishes it. It robs Jesus’ gift on the cross of its enormity in our lives. It’s like watching your favorite movie but fast-forwarding through parts where the hero faces great difficulty and it seems in the moment all hope is lost. Just because we know there is a happy ending doesn’t eliminate the need for the storytelling.

If you feel your spiritual vitality has withered recently, here is a challenge: Spend some time this year celebrating the season of Lent by prayerfully considering of the weight of the cross in your life. You may find this Easter to be your most meaningful one yet.


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