One of the joys of ministry is writing letters for church magazines – and thinking ahead a bit.
This coming month is already the start of Lent. And thinking about it has challenged me in a way I’ve never been challenged before.
Read on for an extract from what I have written for the magazine:
This year we are experiencing a particularly early start of Lent and also a comparably early Easter. I do find it more difficult to prepare myself for Lent when it so close to Christmas and New Year.
As I was thinking about what I expect from Lent this year, I could not get this connection between the relatively recently celebrated period of Advent and Christmas, and the soon coming period of Lent and Easter, out of my mind.
Advent is a time of preparation and of waiting for the celebration of Christ’s birth. It is a time for stillness, but it is also filled with excitement (especially when we think of presents, Christmas dinners, Christmas parties and the like).
Lent is also a time of waiting, but it is often a much more serious (maybe even serene) period. We think about what we could give up for Lent or what extra tasks we could take on, and Lent can feel like hard work or an extra burden. We may even tend to think of Lent as our own journey through Gethsemane and towards the cross – a difficult journey!
But does it need to?
Do we focus on Jesus’ death more than on the Resurrection hope we celebrate at Easter, during the 7 weeks leading up to it?
As followers of Christ, who lived, died and defeated death, should we not look at all that happened before Easter with an “Easter faith”?
Should then Lent not also be a time of hopeful waiting for the celebration of a festival which gives our faith its meaning?
Should we not get terribly excited about the fact that Easter is approaching?
The valley of death (as Psalm 23 puts it), the hardship of life, Gethsemane and Golgotha are all around us in our world, today and in years past – just think of the news we heard recently of hostages dying, of terrible accidents with deadly consequences, of massacres in countries like Syria, of people starving etc.!
Bad news at a more personal level are not uncommon for most people either – be it regarding health, work or people close to us.
Should Lent not remind us that, although bad things do happen, we have a hope that is greater than anything we know?
This Lent, I will not give anything up. I will not take anything in particular on either.
I will instead live by hope and try to spread that hope in whichever way I see useful, whatever situation I find myself in.