Lent kicks off this month, and although it's a pretty big deal for some Christians, it may not be something you've heard much about.
Here's a quick run down:
The term 'Lent' refers to the Lenten Season, which is the 40-day period (not counting the six Sundays) leading up to Easter. It's also known as 'Quadragesima', which means forty in Latin. Lent runs from Ash Wednesday (14 Feb this year) to Easter Sunday and this period includes a bunch of other days with great names like Passion Sunday, Spy Wednesday and Maundy Thursday.
The 40 days of Lent are meant to parallel the forty days Jesus spent fasting from food in the desert before beginning his ministry. This is why people often commit to a form of 'fasting' (temporarily giving up certain luxuries) during this time. Fasting during Lent isn't just about giving something up though - as Christians, it's primarily about making more room to connect with Jesus. As we deny ourselves some physical want or need, we can make that sacrifice an act of surrender and worship to God. When we make our fasting about seeking more of God and deepening our faith and our dependance on Him, it can become a significant time of spiritual growth rather than just a diet.
Ways to participate:
- Fasting during Lent traditionally meant giving up particular foods and drinks on certain days. Today, people choose to give up all kinds of things including TV, devices, social media, coffee, or buying new clothes. You can choose almost anything but just remember that the point is to give up something that's going to challenge you and allow you to make more space to connect with Jesus - each time you crave or think about the thing you're going without, let it remind you of your dependence on God for what you need and the grace you recieve from Him through the sacrifice He made for you at Easter.
- Shrove Tuesday (also known as Pancake Day) is the day before Lent begins (Ash Wednesday) and was traditionally a time of feasting before fasting began. Pancakes were commonly eaten as a way of using up perishable items (eggs, butter etc.) that were not allowed to be eaten during Lent. These days, it's mainly a good excuse to get together with friends and eat a load of pancakes! It can also be a great time to share with others about anything you've decided to give up for Lent and to commit to holding each other accountable.
- The 40acts challenge, which is all about living generously, is another great way you can engage with the Lenten Season. Each morning, you'll be sent a short blog along with a challenge for that day. You can sign up to participate as an individual or as a group and can even select your level of commitment from short, reasonably easy challenges to something more costly or time consuming. Check out www.40acts.org.uk for more info.
- Work through the Forty to Freedom devotional produced by Women's Ministries. It provides a daily Bible verse along with a couple of thought-provoking questions and prayer suggestions. You can download it here.
Have a think about whether Lent is something you want to do this year, get some friends to journey with you, and have a mean feed of pancakes before it kicks off!
Are you doing something for Lent this year? What are you giving up? Let us know!