Lent is the season in the church year that precedes Easter. It is a six week period beginning on Ash Wednesday. The traditional purpose of Lent is to enable the believer to get ready to mark the solemn day of Good Friday and celebrate Jesus' resurrection on Easter Day. The ways that Christians have done this have included self denial, praying, saying sorry for wrong things done, and giving for the needs of others. In the early years of church history, Lent was the time when the new converts prepared themselves prior to their baptism on Easter Day. In England in the Middle Ages (1100-1500 AD), Lent involved everybody in a fast. People were to fast all day, going about their normal business until evening prayer had been said in church. After that service, people could have a simple meal but without meat or eggs. This fast went on through Lent until Easter with the exception of one day, Mothering Sunday or Refreshment Sunday. On this Sunday people could break their fast all day.
Lent this year includes the whole of the month of March. These days people do different things for Lent, including giving up chocolate, cakes, perhaps a meal, alcoholic drinks, even using social media. Another way to use Lent might be to consider what we can do to make a difference. Some people do extra charitable work, others go to a Lent fellowship group or follow guided Bible reading. There is always room for new approaches.
How we use Lent could be influenced by the readings used in Sunday worship. The readings change as Lent progresses. Initially they focus on Jesus' time in the desert, preparing himself for God's work. The emphasis then shifts to Jesus' decision to go to Jerusalem and the difficulties he would face there. The last two Sundays of Lent, Passion Sunday followed by Palm Sunday, concentrate on Jesus' sufferings during the last few days of his earthly life.
The season of Lent is an opportunity to travel in new ways to discover again how God wishes us to serve him. May this Lent be a fruitful time for us all.