Why We Observe Lent
You might have noticed us talking about Lent as well as the “Christian Calendar”. Many did not grow up in a Christian church, and if you did, your particular church may have never talked about Lent or some of the other seasons within the Christian calendar.
So what is Lent and why do we observe it? “The Worship Sourcebook” describes the season this way:
The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are at the heart of the Christian gospel, and Good Friday and Easter are two of the most significant celebrations of the Christian year. Lent is a season of preparation and repentance during which we anticipate Good Friday and Easter. Just as we carefully prepare for big events in our personal lives, such as a wedding or commencement, Lent invites us to make our hearts ready for remembering Jesus’ passion and celebrating Jesus’ resurrection.
The practice of a forty-day preparation period began in the Christian church during the third and fourth centuries. The number forty carries biblical significance based on the forty years Israel spent in the wilderness and Jesus’ forty-day fast in the wilderness. The forty days of Lent begin on Ash Wednesday and continue through holy week, not counting Sundays (which are reserved for celebratory worship). In practice, many congregations choose to focus Sunday worship on the themes of repentance and renewal. As a period of preparation, Lent has historically included the instruction of persons for baptism and profession of faith on Easter Sunday; the calling back of those who have become estranged from the church; and efforts by all Christians to deepen their piety, devotion, and readiness to mark the death and resurrection of their Savior. As such, the primary focus of the season is to explore and deepen a “baptismal spirituality” that centers on our union with Christ rather than to function only as an extended meditation on Christ’s suffering and death.
The traditional color for the season is purple. Some congregations choose to highlight the contrast between Lent and Eastertide (the period from Easter to Ascension Day or Pentecost or Trinity Sunday) by omitting the singing of “Alleluia” during the Lenten season, and yet other congregations stress that all the Sundays of Lent are “little Easters” and thus may appropriately feature Easter-like praise.
Here are a few other resources you might find helpful:
We hope this helps you understand and engage a bit more with the season. For those wanting to explore this season in more depth, we’re encouraging everyone to read “A Hunger For God” by John Piper.
We have it available at our bookstore, but you can get a free PDF of the book here.
May this season of Lent that often is marked by fasting be one of feasting on God and all He is for us in Christ. May this season prepare our hearts for Good Friday & Easter, both increasing our awareness of our sinfulness but also our gratitude for the One who gave His life for us.