I did not grow up in a liturgical church, and so I never celebrated Lent. In fact, I just thought Lent was something Catholics did to chalk up points so they wouldn't go to hell. It always seemed a little showy, and a bit hypocritical (see my side note below). It wasn't until a Lutheran friend mentioned something about Lent that I started to look into it. You know what I discovered? It's a great way to prepare our hearts and minds for Easter!
What is Lent? Lent is the 40 days leading up to Easter, not counting Sundays which are feast days, that is used as a time of reflection, growth, sacrifice and prayer. (Side note: I'll admit I don't quite understand why the Sundays are separate. As I see it, it's kind of like a cheat, because you can have/do whatever you gave up for the 40 days. So, I'm including them into our celebration and into our fast.) Why 40 days? Forty is a significant number in the Bible.It usually symbolizes waiting, preparing, testing, communion with God, or chastisement. The forty days of Lent are based on how Jesus fasted and prayed in the desert for 40 days and nights before he began his
Last year I scoured blogs and articles to find ways of celebrating Lent with the kids. I took a bunch of ideas and combined them to come up with what I think works nicely for us.
The first thing I did was make a paper chain with 47 links, one for each day from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday - 40 purple links represent Jesus' royalty and seven white links are the seven Sundays and represent Jesus' purity. On each link, I wrote something to pray about, either supplication or praise. Every day, one of the kids gets to rip off a link and at dinner we will use it to guide our prayer and discussion.
I wanted our children to know all about Jesus' life on Earth. So, each day, there is a little story about one part of his life, starting with his birth, covering some of his teachings and miracles, and of course, his death and resurrection. However, I didn't want to stop there, because Jesus was on earth for 40 days after he rose from the dead. So on Easter, we will read about his ascension into heaven.
Along with the short stories and the chain link for each day, the kids will have a coloring page that I printed off the Internet. The color pages will hang on the wall of the playroom.
Last year, I had Zeke about a week into
Lent, so we didn't do anything other than the paper chain. I'm still
working on the stories, so I'll post them when they're complete. This year we also decided to give up something for the forty(seven) days, to remind us of how Jesus gave up so much for us. It wasn't just food and water for forty days in the desert. He gave up his power, his place of honor, his royalty, his proximity to God, his dignity, his life; all so that we would not have to pay the price for our sins and spend eternity away from God. I hardly think giving up some small thing for 47 days can come close to what Jesus gave up for us.
This is an exciting new thing we are doing to prepare our hearts for Easter. I'm hoping that the kids, and us adults, will learn something new as we reflect, grow, sacrifice and pray during this Lenten season.
For further thought, I found these articles interesting on Lent from the Evangelical perpective:
What is Ash Wednesday?
Why Bother With Lent?