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Observance of Lent retains integrity
The observance of Lent retains integrity in an increasingly commercialised world
23 Feb 2021
It’s interesting that the season of Lent escapes most forms of commercialisation, unlike the frenzy of present and chocolate buying around the festivals of Christmas and Easter, including by those who make no profession of faith.
One seldom, if ever, sees cards and gifts surrounding the practices of observing Lent. Perhaps it is because these forty days are focused on self-denial rather than indulgence! The call to abstain from something we enjoy is not the most sellable of concepts.
Even today though, during this period, people of many Christian denominations and of no faith choose to go without something they usually take for granted. Some may give up meat, sweets or alcohol. Others forgo the lure of social media, or another pastime they enjoy.
It’s understandable that Christians are ready to embrace the opportunity that Lent provides, not only to manage without a specific treat in life, but to use the time gained to draw close to God in reflection and for spiritual refreshment.
The idea of giving something up
Yet it is less obvious why the idea of a Lenten sacrifice has caught hold of the popular imagination. The answer may be to do with something innate within each of us. That deep down we all know that we do not need all that we have, or have all that we need.
In Ecclesiastes 3 it says that God has planted eternity in the human heart - that sense we share, whether active believers or not, that there is more to life than the here and now. St Augustine’s declaration that our hearts are restless until they find our rest in God portrays a similar perception.
In all its non-marketable glory, Lent is essentially a time for deep and honest reflection. During this season, where we wait and we reflect and we pray, there is an outstanding sense of hope. Yes, we may walk through the wilderness, but if we look, we find Christ with us; yes, Christ’s death on the cross lies ahead, but beyond it, we see the dawning of resurrection, with its promise of eternity.
So, this Lent let’s be grateful that it hasn’t been hijacked by market forces but remains a precious season in which believers can renew their relationship with God and seekers may begin to find their rest in him.