I grew up thinking the four major days of the church year were Christmas, Easter, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. They were certainly the days that seemed to receive the most excitement and attention.
Since my childhood, however, I have been exposed to and studied many different traditions of worship, and I find that we often miss out on some wonderful worship experiences when we eliminate many of the significant days from the traditional church calendar.
Feb. 26 is Ash Wednesday this year. This marks the beginning of the season of Lent which is a 40-day period focused on prayer and preparation to celebrate Easter. Lent culminates with Holy Week, beginning the Sunday before Easter and leading up to Easter Sunday.
The Sunday before Easter is Palm Sunday, or Passion Sunday, and celebrates Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The Thursday before Easter is Maundy Thursday or Holy Thursday and remembers the Last Supper. Good Friday is the day that we commemorate Christ’s death on the cross. Finally, Easter Sunday is a great day of celebrating the resurrection.
We often miss out on some wonderful worship experiences when we eliminate many of the significant days from the traditional church calendar.
Lent has traditionally been marked by penitential prayer, fasting and giving. Some churches today still observe a rigid schedule of fasting on certain days during Lent, which is often accompanied by giving up meat, sweets or other types of food.
Oftentimes, I give up something during Lent. And, what I have discovered is that every time I crave the item I have given up, I think about the reason I am giving it up and focus on the suffering and death of Jesus. It is amazing how much this helps me focus and prepare for Easter.
In my opinion, Easter is an even greater celebration when we truly experience Lent. Yet for many who have never been exposed to the “real” church calendar, the idea may seem somewhat foreign.
Here are some ways to help you experience Lent. If this is your first year experiencing Lent, prayerfully consider just one or two things. Some ideas may give you thoughts to consider for next year.
- Do a Bible reading plan with a friend.
- Do a family devotional each day.
- Fast from something in order to focus on prayer and seeking God.
- Give sacrificially to those in need – thought, money, time, energy or gifts.
- Drive in silence. Spend your morning and evening in prayer.
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