Tuesday, March 8, 2011

40 days

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten season (the 40 days leading up to Easter). Many churches, including the one we attend, celebrate Ash Wednesday with a service and the imposition of the ashes on the forehead. As we were sitting around the dinner table tonight talking with the kids, we reminded them that tomorrow was Ash Wednesday. They were both excited about getting the ashes because they think it's cool to have dirt in the shape of a cross on your forehead. And they are SO sad four days later when those ashes have finally disappeared from sleeping, baths, hats, etc.

They asked me what the ashes mean, and I gave an general answer that satisfied their curiosity. Later though, I did a little research into Lent and the meaning of the ashes. I thought I would share a little excerpt of what I found:

*Ashes are referred to many times in the Old Testament as a sign of sorrow, repentance, and mortality. The ashes on our foreheads reminds us that we will die because death is the penalty for our sin. The sign of the cross is a reminder that it is only through Christ that we will gain salvation and eternal life.

Also, in our family we have often committed to 40 days of fasting in some way, whether it be giving up sweets, a video game, or other pleasureable thing. I think fasting and doing things like this can be beneficial, as long as they are done for the right reasons. Sometimes we tend to get legalistic and it becomes about "following the rules" instead of focusing on Christ and his gift. We can never do enough good works, or earn His forgiveness. We can never repay Him. Lent is not about giving up something to please God-- it's about what He gave to us by dying on the cross. He gave his perfect, sinless life to repay the debt of the sins of the world.

Lent is a time of reflecting on all of this. I have thought about how we can make this real to our kids as well. Maybe a nightly devotion reading together with a candle? I don't know. But I want these 40 days to be not just any ordinary 40 days. How do you set apart Lent as a special time of fellowship with the Lord?

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