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The What, Who, Why, When, and How of Lent

By: Barr Overcast, Assistant Pastor

What is Lent? Historically, the Christian church has set aside different days and seasons to celebrate and remember important events in the life of Christ. Obviously, the most important events in Christ’s life are His birth (Christmas), and His death and resurrection (Easter). The season of Lent refers to the 40 days (not counting Sundays) that lead up to Easter. As Advent is for Christmas, so Lent is for Easter.

Who celebrates Lent? Theoretically, any believer in Christ can celebrate Lent. Observance of Lent is definitely strongest in the Roman Catholic church, which has made some Protestants uneasy about the practice. However, Lent is appropriate for anyone who wants to seek after Christ and wants to be refreshed in the good news of the cross.

Why do Christians celebrate Lent? When people talk about Lent, most time is typically spent on the “How” question. Things like whether to fast and what to fast from typically dominate the discussion. But the more important question in celebrating Lent is this one: “Why.” The purpose of Lent is not to make up for all the bad things we’ve done throughout the year, nor does Lent function as a sort of Christian New Years, when we make our resolutions for how we want to change.

The purpose of Lent is to set a season aside for growth and spiritual renewal by bringing us back to the basics of our faith. There are countless ways that Scripture calls us to grow and countless truths that Scripture calls us to learn as we pursue righteousness. The Christian life can easily get overwhelming as we try to grow as a believer and live out the faith in our families, schools, jobs, and churches. The beauty of Lent is that it ensures that for forty days each year we are coming back to the most basic and most important realities of our faith: the cross and the empty tomb.

When does it take place? This year Lent runs from February 26 until April 12.

How do we pursue growth and spiritual renewal during Lent? There is no magic formula for Lent, and there is nothing that we should do during Lent that we shouldn’t be doing every other day of the year. Reading God’s word, praying, fasting, and spending time with God’s people are the heartbeat of Lenten how-to’s. In this way, there is nothing all that special about Lent. Regardless of whether you decide to “celebrate Lent,” the forty days leading up to Easter should be a time when you read God’s word, pray, fast, and worship alongside other believers.

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