Already? It feels like I just finished putting Christmas things away. Well, that’s probably because I just kind of did. Lent is only a week away and once again time to think about what I will be “giving up”. Unlike the advent season, which, for Christians, is a joyous and preparatory time for the birth of the Christ Child, Lent is a somber time because these days lead up to a day of memoriam for the crucifixion of the adult Christ. It represents Jesus’ 40 days of fasting, praying, and contemplating his fate in the wilderness prior to his murder at the hands of those who feared him. Although He was the holy son of God, He was also the son of humans and shared the same fears of pain and suffering as we do. He knew what was about to happen and he was sad and frightened, but willing to fulfill God’s plan, which had long-before been prophesied.
Lent is a time for reflecting on our lives and our faith. We believe that God gave us the ultimate sacrificial lamb to atone for our sins, His son, Jesus Christ; and Jesus, in turn, suffered and died so that we may live; not that we may live on this earth, since we all have that opportunity as soon as we take our first breath, but that we may have the promise of everlasting life in Heaven with God upon our physical deaths. So, if we are all promised life after death because of God’s sacrifice, the forgiveness of all our sins through Jesus, then why do we even have to bother being good? Because God is our Father and He said so, and because we should honor His sacrifice every day of our lives by living according to the instructions that He gave us through his son, Jesus Christ, and His disciples, in scripture.
Why is giving something up for Lent so important? It’s not a ticket to Heaven if you do, or the fast train to Hell if you don’t, but Lent gives us an opportunity to contemplate Christ’s sacrifice and, in so doing, determine how we can speak to that sacrifice in our own lives. By giving up something important to us in honor and in memory of Him, we are acknowledging the significant place His gift holds in our hearts and our minds. We are feeling, in some unimaginably minuscule fashion, the discomfort Jesus felt hanging on that cross. Although it would be utterly impossible to even begin to fathom His pain and suffering, our own small “sacrifices” can at least make us aware of the unselfishness shown in our names and of His omnipotent presence in our lives. It can remind us that we, ourselves, need to be unselfish and give out of love, just as He did. If you think you can’t be that “good”, just remember that you “can do all things through Christ who strengthens you”. (Philippians 4:13).
What will you give up? Sweets? For most of us, this is the time-honored sacrifice of Lent. When I do this, though, I always feel like there is a part of me that has something to gain, or shall I say lose, which is a gain for me, from this choice. This year I’m going to give up something that deprives me of pleasure but whose withdrawal doesn’t benefit me in some way. I may do the sweets thing, too, though, because at least it makes me think about Jesus’ sacrifice.
What will your sacrifice be? Whatever it is, put yourself in our Savior’s place and consider what your feelings might be, knowing that in 40 days you would be scorned, whipped, denied by a trusted and beloved friend, betrayed by another for 30 pieces of silver, and made to carry the heavy wooden cross that would be the vehicle of your death on your shoulders. You would carry this cross on a long road and up the hill that would be the place of your suffering and death. You would be secured to this cross by nails hammered harshly through your hands and feet. You would be hung between two criminals, a crown of thorns piercing your head, and given vinegar to drink instead of water. All this would be in the presence of hateful revelers, mocking you until you breathed your last. Choose your sacrifice but remember His.