Within a few days, millions upon millions of Christians will be turning their attention to a religious observance that is not as popular as Christmas or Easter, but important nonetheless. This observance begins February 18, which is Ash Wednesday, and continues 40 days (not counting Sundays), leading up to Easter. This season is called Lent.
Perhaps over the years you’ve seen in the grocery store or at the bank someone who had ashes smeared on their foreheads in the shape of a cross. Chances are, they were celebrating Lent, and had been to their place of worship earlier in the day.
In the Old Testament, ashes were often placed on a person as a sign of mourning or grief, usually because of a death or because of personal sin. It’s a sign of helplessness, a sign that help from God is needed; a sign of repentance. It’s a sign of humility and self denial.
So on Ash Wednesday, many gather to worship, to repent of sin, to humble themselves during the season leading up to Easter. It’s a rather noble spiritual exercise. Some people choose to fast during that time. Some give up TV, or Facebook, or coffee, or meats – anything that they enjoy.
We give those things up as a sacrifice of sorts, while we’re seeking to draw nearer to God.
As these words are being written, one realizes how utterly strange this must sound in the ears of those who are not Christians. They would likely think this sounds foolish, and quite the waste of time. But still, Scripture teaches us that there’s a place for fasting (in all its forms) and that giving something up for the God we serve has a place in our lives as Christ-followers.
As our world spirals out of control on so many fronts, it becomes evident that what we need is not to eliminate God from our lives, but to return to Him and to do it wholeheartedly. He is our hope, our strength and our source.
So this year, at a time when we really need God perhaps more than ever, let’s give consideration to a practice that’s been around for many hundreds of years. One thing is certain – drawing near to God wouldn’t hurt any of us.
Pastor Ron Brisson
New Life Church