There are many ways to observe the season of Lent. Some give something up as a reminder of the far greater self-denial made by Christ for the salvation of humankind. Others choose to spend extra time in God’s Word or prayer in order to draw closer to God. And many see this season as a chance for a deeper form of confession and penitence in order that the joy of forgiveness on Easter might be even greater.
But historically, the season of Lent was significant in other ways as well. Since the days of the early church, Lent was a time of teaching and preparation, not just for Easter itself, but for baptism as well. Christians at that time appreciated a strong connection between Baptism and Easter – because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are also able to be washed, cleansed and raised to new life in faith. As Paul writes in Romans 6:4:
We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
Because of the strong connection between baptism and Easter, the early church would often celebrate the baptisms of new believers on Easter, or the days leading up. The 40 day period of Lent was used as a special time of instruction and teaching, especially for those adult converts who were preparing to be baptized.
It makes sense then, that this season of the church year is still helpful in many ways today. It is a chance to reflect again on all that Christ has done. It is an opportunity to lay down some things in our lives in order that we might draw closer to the one who laid down his life on our behalf. And it is also an opportune time for celebrating milestones in the faith – baptisms or confirmation.
At Calvary this year we will be celebrating the Rite of Confirmation for one of our own students on Palm Sunday, March 20th. And confirmation is just what it says, a chance for an individual to confess their own faith, and have their confession confirmed by the church. Certainly all at Calvary are invited and encouraged to be present for this milestone.
One final note on the season of Lent: You may wonder why it is 40 days long (excluding Sundays). 40 is a significant number in the Bible. It is often seen as a number that indicates testing, trial, or probation just before a new beginning. Interestingly, the earliest of Christians believed Jesus was dead in the grave for 40 hours(Good Friday afternoon until Easter morning). The number 40 has held significant importance throughout biblical history. The rains fell on Noah in the ark for 40 days and 40 nights. Moses was on top of Mount Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments for 40 days and 40 nights. Elijah walked 40 days and 40 nights to the mountain of the Lord. Jesus, most importantly, fasted and prayed for 40 days and 40 nights before starting his public ministry.