Lent is About the Gospel

Growing up in a liturgical church setting, Lent was a somber time of contemplation.  Ashes crossed foreheads.  The hymn selection on the old pipe organ only included minor, dissonant sounding chords.  Black cloth draped the altar.  Items were given up.  I remember hearing many of my friends complaining about unsingable melodies and the number of services they attended during Holy Week.  While I kept my mouth shut about how I really felt, Good Friday, was actually one of my favorite days of the year.

For a long time, saying so made me feel a little bit guilty and morbid.  Sure I loved watching the sunrise through stained glass windows on Easter and hearing Lutheran voices belting out “He is risen indeed” with more emotion and joy than you’d hear the congregation use all year long.  But what I found equally, if not more, compelling was the quiet reverence and aching sorrow that echoed as each station of the cross was described.  The realness of my sin exposed.  The penalty willingly endured and paid for by Immanuel–God with us.  Even from a young age, I realized that Easter only came through Good Friday.  Both equally necessary for redemption to occur.

Lent in many ways has gotten a bad wrap.  The idea of giving something up for the 40+ days before Easter in some ways has become highly ritualistic and unattached from what the season really is about.  People abstain from certain foods or vices with a desire not to draw closer to God, but to lose weight, be a better person, or even as a way to earn forgiveness.  Others attempt to sacrifice because of a desire to win the approval of man or from a distorted view of obligation.  On the other extreme, Easter in many ways has become a holiday for consumers.  Jelly beans, eggs, and bunnies encourage us to bypass the crucifixion and instead focus on cultural icons tied more closely to sugar and spring than anything else.

The truth is, Lent is about the gospel.  It is

a time for us to slow down and focus on the work of Christ.

a season to repent from sin and trust in His work on the cross. 

a reminder that the empty tomb only comes through the cross.

meant to help us prepare ourselves for the joy of the resurrection as we enter into the sorrow and pain that came first.

a reminder that we live in the “already, but not yet.” 

This year, Lent begins on Wednesday, March 1. To help you and your family prepare, I’ve compiled a list of resources that might be helpful as you prepare to celebrate Easter on Sunday, April 16.

Lent Devotional Guide from The Village Church
This guide includes weekly prayers from The Valley of Vision, a scripture reading, a time of reflection, and an optional encouragement to fast from a different item each week (a specific food, social media, television, etc…)

Lenten Lights from Desiring God
Another weekly devotional with reflections and scripture included to help prepare your heart for Easter.  This devotional also encourages families to light candles and to blow them out in the reverse order to represent the darkness of sin and death and the glorious hope of Easter morning.

Whiter Than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy by Paul David Tripp
This is the resource I plan to use again this year.  Using Psalm 51, Tripp provides 52 daily meditations on sin, repentance, and God’s mercy that are perfect for this season.

Crossing Kids Lent Devotional
If you’re looking for a weekly devotional with scripture and discussion questions for all members of your family, consider using our Crossing Kids Lent Devotional the Light of Easter which also borrows an encouragement to light and blow out candles from Lenten Lights.

Family Easter Celebration
Regardless of whether or not you have small children, consider attending this year’s Family Easter Celebration on Friday, April 7.  We’ll spend time hearing the Easter Story by reading The Garden, the Curtain, and the Cross by Carl Laferton, creating a craft to remember its message, and worshiping our Savior Jesus. Each family will receive a copy of the book to take home along with a devotional discussion guide. Consider inviting a friend or neighbor to share the evening with you.

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