“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterward he was famished.” (Matthew 4:1-2)
Greetings St. Philip’s UCC!
While some of us are still taking down and putting away the last of our Christmas decorations, in the blink of an eye, here we are about to enter the season of Lent. It’s a kind of whiplash of seasons, transitioning from the joy of Christmas and the wonder of Epiphany into the more somber season of Lent.
In the tradition of Jesus’ forty days of prayer and fasting in the wilderness, just after his baptism and just before he begins his public ministry, we continue to set aside forty days, six weeks, leading up to Holy Week and the celebration of Easter. Some may uphold the tradition of fasting or of giving up something for those forty days as a reminder of the ministry of Jesus. Some may spend extra time studying the scriptures as an intentional way to pay attention to their spirituality during these forty days. Some may engage in a devotional or prayer practice as they set aside these forty days to listen deeply for God’s whisper. Some may find extra ways to serve and volunteer and give during this season of Lent, leaning into Christ’s call to love our neighbors.
There are all kinds of ways to mark the season of Lent in our daily lives and there’s no right or wrong way to do it. Every year we make our way from the parade of palms, to the last supper, to the cross, to the tomb, and, finally, to the resurrection. It’s a lot to take in, no matter how many times you’ve made the journey through Holy Week. It’s so much, in fact, that we spend forty days preparing our hearts to reimagine it again every year.
How will you observe the season of Lent in 2023? Maybe you do the same things every year. Maybe every year you try something different. Maybe you’ve never been intentional about marking these forty days in the liturgical tradition. It’s really not so much about what you do; it’s really more about why. Whether it’s Bible study, boosting your prayer life, giving something up, looking for opportunities to serve, or any number of things you might tangibly “do,” the most important part is the “why.” If you’re seeking to lean into and grow your relationship with God, to better understand your faith and spirituality, to connect deeper with Christ, to be more intentional about being a part of the Body of Christ—the Church, to prepare your heart for the agony and ecstasy of Holy Week, or to learn how to follow Jesus ever more closely and live into God’s kingdom of love and grace, well, you’re certainly on the right track!
However you spend this season of Lent, whatever ways you find to mark these forty days, may it be full of meaning, expand your faith and understanding of God’s grace, and draw you ever nearer to the light and love of Christ.
Lenten blessings, friends. May our journey through the wilderness lead us together to hope and joy!
Peace and prayers for the journey ahead,