The Beginning of Lent
“Just a minute.”
Fellow human, you and I are beings that often find ourselves needing to wait. We wait for our coffee to brew (or for a barista to make it precisely to our order). We wait for our devices to connect to Wi-Fi. We wait for our loved ones to return from work or school. We wait for the big blue truck to deliver our orders. Sometimes, we wait for that longed-for sleep to finally come over us as we lay staring at the ceiling.
More than anything else though, we wait for one of God’s promises: that He will make all things right and new. We wait for the brokenness we see around us to be restored. We wait for healing, internal or external. We humbly wait for the LORD.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you…
1 Peter 5:6 ESV
Today, Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Lenten season, in which followers of Christ look ahead with a unique mix of humble self-reflection, sorrowful memory, hopeful expectation, and - ultimately - triumphant joy as we begin the 40 days leading to Resurrection Sunday (Easter). To prepare Himself for the cross, Jesus spent 40 days in the desert, depriving Himself to focus on God the Father and on the task He’d been given - that is, to bear the burden of sin, to be crucified, to enter the depths of hell and conquer it all. For 40 days, He waited and allowed His Father to prepare Him for what was to come. One of my favorite authors refers to this season like this:
“In this season, we sit in this sober reckoning of our own mortality, frailty, brokenness, and sin. It glosses over nothing, but feels the weight of a shattered world, beset by death. But it doesn’t remain there . . . there is an inexorable movement over these weeks toward the fount of life. Lent prepares the heart to remember again the wonder of Easter . . . so it moves over the next forty days toward that bright dawning of our hope, our forgiveness, our restoration, redemption, and renewal, the glorious reversal of sin and sickness and death bursting into this world and into our own lives in the glory of the resurrection. So Lent begins in the disquieting shadow of our mortality, and culminates in the glorious hope of our immortality."
For most of the last two millennia, believers have engaged in a similar practice of deprivation during this season. Perhaps you’ve participated in Lent in the past or are preparing to begin another such endeavor today. During the season of Lent, a person may choose to “give up” things like chocolate or other treats, certain foods or drinks, various forms of entertainment, and a host of other things. I don’t know your past experiences with this season or with the spiritual discipline of fasting, but if you are curious and considering giving something up, then I’m glad you’re here, friend. My hope, and our hope at CCC, is that you’ll prayerfully consider what it meant for Jesus to give up all that He did . . . and why He chose to do so.
I’ve always found this passage from Philippians 2 to be an incredible picture of the spirit of Lent:
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the Name that is above every name, so that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is LORD, to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:5-11 ESV
This passage is commonly referred to by Biblical scholars as the “Kenosis,” a Greek word (κένωσις) that means “the act of emptying.” As we read in verse 6, Jesus emptied Himself - He gave all that He could in a way that only He could as the Son of God. He gave up humbly. He took on our human form, our human struggles, our humanness . . . including the weight of our human sins. He took on the shroud of death. Because He did, the conclusion of this passage rings clear and true: God the Father exalted Him, and all creatures everywhere will one day bow and confess Christ as the LORD. We eagerly await that day!
As we enter into this season of Lent, it is our hope and prayer that you prayerfully consider Christ’s humble example and what it means for you. In all things, let’s strive to imitate Him, the one who perfects faith (Hebrews 12:2). If that inspires you to approach this season of Lent with a renewed perspective and desire to humbly give up something you hold dear as you wait with hopeful expectation, then praise be to God!
Until then, my friend, let’s wait on the LORD together. In our waiting, let’s prepare our hearts. Let’s remember what He did because of His great love for us.
I can’t wait to see how God the Father works in our waiting.