Have you ever noticed that while Christmas is issued in by weeks and weeks of preparation and anticipation, Easter comes and goes in a flash?
It is curious to me that New Church culture has adopted the Old Christian season of Advent, but has ignored the season of preparation for Easter: Lent.
In the earliest years of my marriage, my husband was a proper ‘bah humbug’ when it came to Christmas. After much discussion (and references to Scrooge) I realized that my husband was frustrated with the out-of-proportion prominence that Christmas received in our culture when compared to Passover. All that fuss to commemorate the Lord’s arrival on earth but hardly a glance at the stories that explain what He actually did when He came here. My husband had a point. Rather than depriving Christmas of all its merriment and pageantry, over the years we have looked for ways to make Easter, or ‘Passover’ as many cultures call it, more special and exciting for our children. We take two weeks off of school. We give large and numerous gifts which we hide for the kids to hunt for on Easter morning. We have a fantastic feast complete with an unusual dessert– we set up a miniature mossy world tablescape where candy bugs and chocolate birdies hide. We even have an Easter story representation. In short, we have tried to add to Easter versions of many of the celebratory components of Christmas.
But the Passover story is decidedly different in tone from the Christmas story. There is a seriousness to the Easter story that the celebration of the Lord’s birth just doesn’t have. And merriment and gift-giving can’t fully capture. And that is where the observance of self-sacrifice during the Lenten season has been valuable for us.
Each year we choose some luxury we will give up as a family for the period of Lent. The idea is that whenever we desire that luxury we will stop and think about the Lord Jesus Christ and the sacrifices He made for us. This year we are giving up ‘recreational screens’–no more movies or video games.
There is, of course, no magic in sacrificing during Lent. The real value in the Lenten season is not the giving-up in itself but in the preparation and anticipation for Easter. The season need not be one solely of sacrifice—we also grow flowers to give at Easter Sunday church and create special decorations. Yet I’ve found that marking the season with a little self-sacrifice matches the tone of the Easter story and the Lord’s sacrifice and love for us. And through choosing to give up something as a part of Easter preparation, we hope to instill in our family a different kind of Christian spirit than the ‘spirit of giving’ which we foster at Christmas time. Another angle to being Christian.
A few weeks ago I got confused and told the boys that Lent began on Feb 12th. When I realized my mistake and let them know that Lent didn’t, in fact, begin for two more weeks, the littlest ones were relieved (Yay! Put Wild Kratts back on!) but one of my elder sons was curiously upset. He was disappointed, he admitted to me, he had worked hard to prepare himself for the Lenten season and was ready to make the sacrifices to remember the Lord…and now he had to wait.
That was an incredibly precious moment for me!