Lent is a precious, precious time for me--I look forward to it with even more anticipation than Advent and Christmas.
Don't get me wrong--I adore Advent and Christmas: the family traditions, the Christmas carols (especially the carols!!), the snugness of the house as winter approaches, the scent of cinnamon and baking wafting from the kitchen, and the anticipation of unveiling the secrets wrapped under the tree.
But while Christmas is an amazing time of year, I admit that the excessive busyness and the hype get to me, robbing me of the joy I should be feeling in celebrating Christ's Incarnation...which is why I look forward with such anticipation to Ash Wednesday, Lent, Holy Week, and Easter Sunday.
There is little hype and full concentration on living out God's Word in our lives, of God-at-work in the Spiritual Spring Cleaning which is Lent.
(If you'd like to read more about the practice of Ash Wednesday and Lent, see my page "On Lent," a talk I gave to a women's Bible study at Lake Murray Community Church in 2010.)
Several years ago I read an incredible post about something dear to my heart--written by the wonderful Ann Voskamp at A Holy Experience (my favorite blog). She shared about the process of making Easter as meaningful in our lives as Christmas.
That's a convicting thought, isn't it?
If we invest all this effort, time, money into Christmas, celebrating the Incarnation, how can we not do at least the same, if not more, to celebrate the Resurrection?
And Advent completes at Lent.
When Christ completes what He came to do.
We call it the “spirit of Christmas,” the spirit of giving, and we try to contain it to holly and poinsettias, when it is holy and it is more. The spirit of Christmas is the spirit of Easter, the Love that so loved the world, that He gave.
And the words that stings heart and motivates soul:
The Incarnation of Christ was meant for the Crucifixion of Christ and we never incarnate Christ until we abdicate self.
And "abdicat[ing] self" is the whole meaning behind the practice of Lent.
And I think it's perhaps why Lent feels so precious to me. For in the abdication of self, we may gain the merest glimpse of His glory--the swirl of His cloak, His whisper in the wind, His hand on our shoulder as He nudges us onward in His holiness.
And thus Lent is one way to join Christ on His journey to Calvary. It's a gift, really--to become one of the weeping women of His beloved city, the city He wept over, clad in dusty garments and worn sandals, the women of Jerusalem whom He took the time to greet and to warn despite searing pain and the weight of the world on His shoulders--beaten raw, seeping blood.
"Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming...." (Luke 23:28-29, ESV)Lent allows us to join Jesus on the Road to Calvary, sharing a minuscule bit of His pain as we follow in His footsteps, only imagining what He willingly bore for us--the agony, the betrayals, the sin of past, present, and future generations--of all humanity. Even the mere visualization stabs my heart...much less the real experience of Christ's obedient suffering.
After poking around online for a bit, looking for some new additions to my Commonplace Book, I've chosen two quotations about Lent for this week (see sidebar):
"The observance of Lent is the very badge of Christian warfare."
~Pope Benedict XVI
"The Lord measures our perfection neither by the multitude nor by the magnitude of our deeds, but by the manner in which we perform them."
~Saint John of the Cross
During this Lent, may we walk with Him as He stumbles forward, humanly-weak but divinely-strong, as "he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross" (Philippians 2:8, ESV).
And may we be so obedient in our Lenten disciplines, empowered by Christ and not ourselves as He molds us into His image, cutting away the sinful dross that accumulates in our lives all-too-easily.
Stumbling ever onward in His sacred footfalls,
(Partially from the Archives....)