by Kelly Soifer
Originating in the fourth century of the church, the season of Lent spans 40 weekdays beginning on Ash Wednesday and climaxing during Holy Week with Holy Thursday (Maundy Thursday), Good Friday, and concluding Saturday before Easter.
Lent is marked by a time of prayer and preparation to celebrate Easter. Since Sundays celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, the six Sundays that occur during Lent are not counted as part of the 40 days of Lent, and are referred to as the Sundays in Lent. (Therefore there are 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter!) Many people choose to fast (give up something important in their daily lives) during Lent as a way to be humble before God. In other words, by sacrificing something we deem important for a period of time, we are reminded each time we want to use or do that “thing” that we are to depend more on God than the thing we are sacrificing.
- The number 40 is connected with many biblical events. How many of these “40” events in the Bible can you think of?
- Lent is especially connected with the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness preparing for his ministry by facing the temptations that could lead him to abandon his mission and calling. Christians today use this period of time for introspection, self examination, and repentance. How could you spend these 40 days? Would it better for you to fast from something, or to apply some sort of spiritual discipline during this time?
- Turn in your Bibles to Luke 4:1-13. Take some time to look at the three ways that Jesus was tempted in his 40 days in the wilderness. How could you deal with those temptations during your Lenten observance?
Lent is a season that reminds us to “repent” (turn our lives back towards God) and get our lives centered, our priorities straight, and our hearts clean. This holy season offers us a new chance to say “yes” to the Lord who created us, who made us in his own image. Lent is the time for a restoration project that will reveal the beauty of God’s design for us, showing once again the scale, proportion, and priorities intended by our Maker.
- Ash Wednesday is a somber day of reflection on what needs to change in our lives if we are to truly follow Christ. What needs to change in your life?
- Ashes are symbolic of that attitude of penitence and regret. Do you need to confess anything to God? What is it? Do you need to forgive someone? Who?
- Do you need to center your life? Do you need to get your priorities straight? Do you need to get your heart clean?
Finally, Lent is a season of hope—as we pray through it, we go forth to love and serve. For by God’s grace in Christ, we do not have to stay the way we are. Take some time as a youth group to praise God for the new life we can have in Jesus Christ:
From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! —2 Corinthians 5:16-17