Today is both Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day – and our Family Fun Day at GPCC between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m.
Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, that period of time leading up to Easter when traditionally we give up something we like (coffee, tea, biscuits, chocolate, a game or hobby) to focus our minds on the suffering of Christ and to prepare ourselves for Easter. Self-denial, Jesus said, is a necessary part of following Him: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34)
This is not a popular teaching. Denying ourselves goes against our natural instincts and against the world’s ways. Lent is not a highly regarded part of the Christian calendary by anyone looking on. We must prefer the slushy romantic ideals of a highly secularised Valentine’s Day to the idea of suffering and sacrifice.
But Lent, like Advent, is all about preparation, and it was God’s love which motivated His giving (John 3:16), so the two celebrations are actually inter-connected. Just as in Advent we have to let our hearts prepare Him room, so in Lent, we have to learn to grow up, to see suffering (and life) the way God sees it. That giving of self, that sacrifice of Jesus, was the ultimate expression of love. In this period, we learn to walk in the ways of our Saviour, ways that end in death AND resurrection.