It hardly seems any time since I was writing about Advent, and now I find myself trying to think about Lent, which begins on 14th February.
Like Advent, Lent is a time of preparation, looking ahead to the festival of Easter.
I wonder what, if anything, Lent means for you. Will you give anything up? I have mixed feelings about the practice of giving things up for Lent. Stemming from the ancient practice of fasting, where people gave things up in order to focus on God and their walk with him, it can feel today like Lent is the second chance at the new year’s resolutions we made just a few weeks earlier, which have begun to slip. People give up alcohol, or coffee, or chocolate, or they try losing weight or watching less TV. Now, none of these things are a bad idea. Tending to our physical and social selves, doing what’s good for us, regaining balance, is to be commended.
However, I think Lent is also a real opportunity to stand back, to reflect on our spiritual selves, to look at the world and our place in it, to think of Easter that is coming, and all that means for us as human beings. So, how might we approach Lent?
I wonder if it is a chance to slow down a bit, to tend to the overlooked bits of life. During Advent, it is hard to slow down, or to stop and reflect because, the reality is, the lead up to Christmas is quite manic and busy. I think Advent has become, for me, the chance to see God at work amidst the busyness and chaos. But Lent feels different. Lent is longer, six weeks. Lent is less pressured for most because Easter, despite being a major Christian festival, is simply not as pressured as Christmas.
A few years ago, while I was living in the Cotswolds, the beginning of Lent saw heavy snowfall. Our children’s schools were closed and we were unable to go very far. As I reflected on this, it seemed to me to be a helpful picture for how we might approach Lent. Maybe we should view it a bit like a ‘snow day’. Allowing our lives to be disrupted and having to do things differently. Snow often means that days have to be slower than normal as our ability to ‘do’ or to ‘go’ is restricted. This gives us more time to attend to other things, family, administration, rest, prayer. I would quite Like lent to be like that, and perhaps that does mean giving something up, not just so I can lose weight or feel more healthy, but so that I can turn my attention to other things – prayer, reading, relationships, understanding and responding to what’s going on in the world, reflecting on what it is to be loved by God, pondering the meaning of the events of Easter.
So, I hope for everyone’s safety and sanity, it doesn’t snow too much this February. But I do hope that each of us can find the time to review, to pause, to ponder, to reflect, to rebalance, to pray and to begin to turn our attention towards the events and meaning of Easter.
Rev Rachel Rosborough