Yesterday, we entered the season of Lent with Ash Wednesday, the first day of the 40 days (plus 6 Sundays) before Easter. After Christmas, on January 10th, we started the liturgical period of “Ordinary Time” which ended with the beginning of Lent yesterday and will continue until Eastertide. As you may already know, the year is filled with various liturgical seasons and Lent is one of them.
Lent begins the day after Mardi Gras, the day commonly referred to Fat Tuesday, which is the last day that people celebrate before they enter a period of self denial as we approach Easter. That’s why there is so much celebrating in places like New Orleans; with parades, singing, dancing and other forms of excess in advance of the solemnity of the Lenten period.
The idea of Lent is to heighten our awareness of the events leading up to and including the death of Jesus. As a symbol of self denial many people temporarily give up something of importance that serves as a catalyst for reminding them of the suffering of Jesus as an atoning sacrifice for our sins – with his death on a cross. Of course, we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus on Easter – the ultimate victory over death when Jesus rises from the dead and eventually ascends to His Father to rule throughout eternity.
The point is that sometimes we tend to take the sacrifice of Jesus as something that we have been used to hearing about. We can get de-sensitized to the importance of remembering the events as He entered Jerusalem preceding the week before His death. In a way, Lent is a gift – a chance for us to spend time reflecting and deepening our faith.
Ultimately, the idea is to grow closer to Christ during this time of reflection. The best way to do this is to deny ourselves of something that is meaningful to us – causing us to spend time in communion with God during those times that we would rather be indulging ourselves.
There are numerous verses in the book of Matthew that speak to the idea that those who love their lives will lose them as well as other verses imploring us to follow Jesus. But the verse I have chosen this evening is a more obscure verse recorded in the book of John. John the Baptist makes the statement that he has been sent ahead of Jesus and that he is not to be confused with Jesus. He then tells the people, and us, in John 3:30, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (KJV)
Of course this means that John must be less important and Jesus must be elevated to a place of prominence. In fact, we are to dedicate our lives to Jesus and put Him first. Most of us struggle with this concept, but that is the mandate that we have been given. My encouragement this evening is that Jesus wants to be our God and the place we go to first when contemplating decisions about our families, our jobs, our financial resources and everything else that can take the place of Jesus in our lives.
My prayer is that every Christian will use this period of Lent to dwell on the sacrifice of Jesus and how we can grow closer to God as the Lord of our lives during this time of sacrifice and self denial. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…