The Easter Season
There is an intentional season that leads up to Easter and we call it “Lent”. Just like “Advent” is the traditional name for the Christmas Season, “Lent” is the Easter Season. Believe it or not, Lent is almost here.
A long time ago, people who wanted to become Christians would start their journey at Lent. They would fast from food for the 46 days leading up to Easter and then they would be baptized on Easter morning. And in one moment they would be saved, baptized, and join the church. Of course fasting for 46 days doesn’t make it feel like a quick process. Those 46 days were a season of consecrating themselves to God, examining their life to fully devote themselves to following Christ. You can imagine that the persecution that followed the early church created a process where people wouldn’t flippantly give their lives to Christ. After all, it may be the last day they were alive in this planet.
There are several ways this practice has affected our culture today. The process of examining their life before making a commitment to Jesus has lingered and it’s still not uncommon to hear people say they need to get their life right before coming to Jesus. We know that you don’t need to get anything right before coming to God. In fact, trying to fix your life before surrendering your life to God is like trying to drive your car before turing on the ignition. In the same way that starting your car activated the power inside the car to allow you to make turns and drive, when we give our life to God, He turns on a power inside of us to turn our life around. That said, we can still honor the struggle young believers would have faced during their Lent conversion as they pondered if they were ready to make a public statement that may get them killed.
Fasting for 46 days is no joke. Fasting for any length of time is designed to pull us deeper into our journey with Christ. Can you imagine starting your journey with a 46 day fast? It’s like starting a campire with rocket fuel. One aspect of the Lent fast I have always admired is that Sunday’s were a rest from your fast. Those in the fast would be able to eat and celebrate on the Sabbath. That would definitely make Sundays the highlight of your week! If you’re doing the math here, that means our “fasters” are fasting 40 days, the same amount Jesus fasted, but with Sunday breaks in between.
One other aspect of Lent that has lingered into our culture is the day before Lent. People who were intending to begin the Lenten Fast and be baptized into the Christian faith would spend the day before the fast indulging in their sin as a last fling with their flesh. I’m sure it started innocent enough, perhaps gorging in food they can’t eat for 46 days or hanging out with friends that won’t be friendly starting tomorrow. Whatever the case, it has turned into Mardi Gras. There is something grevious to me about seeing people flock to New Orleans to indulge in Mardi Gras. It’s sad enough to see the many wrong choices, selfishness, and disrespecting of self and others. It only adds to my sorrow that they’re celebrating in a tradition with no intention of celebrating Lent the next day. They have no clue about what they are doing. This made one Easter especially moving as I watched a live Easter special telling the Gospel from New Orleans. The music was good and as a whole, the show was pretty good for a live musical. But I was touched to see a parade of people marching a giant, lighted cross through the streets, on its way to the show’s finale spot. Tears began to form as the crowd gathered and they passed through the French Quarter where 46 days ago Mardi Gras had taken place. I thought of the verse that even the rocks will cry out and praise God. I thought how the stones in that street must have longed for this moment, experiencing the shame of Mardi Gras but never the joy of Easter.
So what? Those of you who like history and context have had your fill in this post, but why read this? Let’s challenge ourselves to prepare for Easter. We are a part of a story, a long tradition, of people who not only love Easter, but take preparing for Easter seriously. I would challenge to fast something in some way that will be a daily reminder to you to draw close to Jesus. You may want to give up food and you would win the gold medal of Lent. You may want to give up desserts or coffee or instagram. Next week I will share more about fasting and have lots of ideas for you. But you will need to decide before next Wednesday.
Whatever you choose, whatever you do, remember the goal is to create a reminder through some craving or habit to urge you to draw close to Jesus.