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written by Jenny Quinlan


Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of a new season in the church year called Lent. Lent is similar to Advent (the time leading up to Christmas), but it has a quiet, solemn, reflective tone and feel to it. Some would say this season focuses on Christ more than any other season of the year.

Lent is 40 days beginning with Ash Wednesday (Not counting Sundays - they are mini-Easters!) and continuing to Easter Sunday.

It’s a time when we focus on Jesus, who He is, and His sacrifice for us. These 40 days give us time to seek God’s voice amid the noise of this world and listen to what He has to say about us and what He has done for us. (Romans 5:8 “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”)

On Ash Wednesday, we are marked with a cross, made from ashes, as the pastor says, “from dust you are and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:19)

During this time of Lent, you'll sometimes hear of people giving something up. People do this for various reasons; some are to remove things that are keeping them from knowing God or are “bad” things in their lives, habits they need to kick. Some people give something up so when they are tempted to engage in that activity or indulge in that food, they are reminded of Christ’s much bigger sacrifice. Some people choose to add something - a devotion or prayer time. Many churches offer mid-week services during Lent.

Lent ends with Holy Week, the week leading up to Easter, and is filled with additional worship services as we walk with Jesus to the cross. On Palm Sunday (the Sunday before Easter), we wave palm branches and say, “Hosanna, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord,” just as those who welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem did many years before. (Matthew 21:9) The palm branches are then used to make next year’s ashes.

Later that week is Maundy Thursday, we remember the events in the Upper Room - the institution of the Lord’s Supper and Jesus washing his disciples’ feet. At the end of the service, everything is removed from the altar, representing Jesus being stripped by the Roman soldiers prior to His crucifixion.

Good Friday, the day of Jesus’ crucifixion, is typically a service of darkness. It’s quiet, often lit by candlelight, and some churches read the 7 last words that Jesus spoke, giving mini-sermons on each word/phrase. It’s a time of sadness as the lights dim, signifying Jesus’ death. At the end of the service, usually there’s a book slamming or a loud noise representing Jesus’ last breath. However, a candle returns, signifying the hope that we have - Jesus told us he wouldn’t stay dead!

All of this leads up to Easter Sunday, a day of celebration. Jesus is alive, conquering sin, death, and the devil!

If you don’t currently attend mid-week Lenten services or Holy Week worship, I encourage you to attend a church that does. I pray your Lenten journey will be blessed!

What is Lent?


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