What is Lent? When did it begin? It is the period of time before Easter. Traditionally it is the 46 days prior to Easter. While observance of Lent is not commanded in Scripture, it is nonetheless very old, and very valuable. Though celebrating Christmas is not in Scripture, many still do. The observance of Lent is actually older than the observance of Christmas!
An important figure in the early church is a man named Irenaeus. He was born in the year AD115—less than 20 years after the book of Revelation was written! In a letter Irenaeus mentioned the various ways people fasted in the days leading up to Easter. This is significant because it indicates the early church had been celebrating the resurrection on a yearly basis by fasting in the days and weeks prior to Easter Sunday.
At the Council of Nicea in AD325, a call was made for regular meetings that were to take place each year “before the 40 days of Lent.” Since the Council did not explain when that was, it must have been a widely recognized time. We can see that the celebration of Lent was widespread throughout the churches of the world.
While Lent is 46 days long, it is a 40-day fast. Whatever is given up during Lent is celebrated and enjoyed on Sundays since Sunday is a “mini-Easter.” After all, we meet on Sundays to celebrate our Risen Lord!
Let’s celebrate Lent this year. Choose something in your life that you can give up Monday through Saturday. Whether it’s bread or basketball or soda or pasta or something else, give up something you enjoy (giving up liver probably doesn’t count). When you desire that thing, spend time in prayer instead. On Sundays, enjoy the thing you have given up, thanking Jesus for His resurrection and our future resurrection.
As a church let’s celebrate Lent and spend time in concentrated prayer for our community and the Gospel. Pray for God to work in a powerful way as we continue to serve Him in the near-northeast of Grand Rapids.