This week begins the Lenten season, starting with Ash Wednesday on March 1 and concluding on Saturday, April 15, the day before Easter. For some, this may cause flashbacks of you as a child or adult with ashes on your forehead; for some, you may know this time when you would abstain from sweets or other vices for 40 long days; and for some, you may not have any connection to this word at all. You may ask, “Lenten. Like lentil soup?”
At Real Church we exist to point people to Christ and to train them to live out their individual and corporate callings by being real with ourselves, others, and God. We do not force people to practice church traditions or to be particularly fluent in them; however, we believe God uses these traditions to remind us of Him, so having a working knowledge of them is important and will encourage your faith.
Some of us may have baggage when it comes to these traditions. We get it. And we pray that you will be able to release that baggage and let God redeem it. Why? Because these holy days remind us of how much we need our Savior Jesus Christ. It’s humbling. It causes us to really see ourselves and see God. And it allows us to share in the highs and lows of our faith with other believers as we go through the highs and lows of Jesus’s ministry. It’s real. It’s the vision of the church.
A Quick Summary of the Liturgical Calendar, Part I
Let me preface, this is a quick summary. My goal is to show you how these traditions are all about Jesus, and to also encourage you to adopt some of these traditions if you feel led by the Spirit to do so.
The year begins with Advent, which sets us up to anticipate the promised Messiah. This lasts four Sundays, usually around 25 days. We don’t have to wait long because his birth is celebrated on Christmas. Some traditions celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas, which begins on Christmas and leads up to the Epiphany, which is the reveal of Jesus to the wise men who came to worship and bring Him gifts. These days remind us that Jesus truly is a precious gift from God.
The calendar continues with the Lenten season, which is a season of preparing ourselves for the Cross through prayer, repentance, reflection, and worship. The focus is on our Messiah and how much we truly need Him, which prepares our heart for Holy Week.
Before Lent truly begins, some church traditions celebrate Fat Tuesday/Mardi Gras/Carnival, which is the Tuesday before Lent (February 28). It’s a day of celebration and thankfulness for all the blessings God has given you. And for some traditions, it’s the day to repent of your sins as you enter Lent. Some have also used this day to sin as much as they want, but we do not condone that practice.
Ash Wednesday, March 1, is the first day of Lent. It’s a somber day of reflection and humility. It’s the day to repent, it’s the day to remember the hope we have in Christ, and for some, to publicly acknowledge Jesus by placing a sign of the cross with ash on your forehead.
Lent lasts 40 days (March 1-April 15), and as mentioned earlier, Lent is all about Jesus. There are many ways to observe this holiday. Some people fast as a way to focus their attention on Jesus. This may include fasting from Netflix and spending that time in worship. Some fast from a certain food and use those moments when they are tempted to remember Christ. Some people add daily Scripture reading, such as one of the Gospels or even Isaiah, which teaches a great deal about the promised Messiah.
Whatever you decide to do during this season, the purpose is to let God prepare your heart for the Cross by realizing your desperate need for a Savior. Let us know how you are celebrating/observing Lent this season in the comments below.
Stay tuned for part II of this series, which will include Holy Week, Easter, and Pentecost.