Sunday, January 27, 2013

Celebrating Lent

Now be honest.  How many of you have ever thought of the season of Lent as something to be celebrated?  Exactly.  I'm willing to guess that most of you don't usually pair those two words.  I'm also willing to guess that for most of you, thinking about Lent usually conjures up memories of either 1) having to give something up or 2) eating fish on Fridays.

Of course, those two things are even related (i.e. you eat fish on Fridays because you gave up meat on those days), but it turns out the season of Lent is about so much more than giving up something.  Sure, that practice can be meaningful and worthwhile; when it started, the point was to think about God or pray when you were reminded of that thing you were giving up.  But like I said, that's not the only thing we can do to practice our faith during Lent.

It's important to keep in mind that at its core, Lent is about preparation.  More specifically, back in the day, it was about new Christians preparing themselves for baptism (which would happen the Saturday before Easter Sunday).  This was the time in the church year for these people to learn more about Jesus and what the Christian life was all about.

These days, (at least in the Lutheran tradition that I know, appreciate, and practice), we most often baptize infants.  I LOVE this practice and definitely think it is the way to go, because I can't really think of anything better that says, "You know what?  God loves you!  God loves you, like it or not.  And you know what else?  This love is a gift.  There's nothing you can do to earn it, increase it, or make it go away."  I've written more about that here.

But going back to Lent, whether or not you give up something, there are things we can do to help prepare ourselves and our family to hear the good news of Easter.  That said, here are some ways that you might want to "celebrate" Lent as a family.  Especially with young kids, because when they're little kids might not really understand the whole "giving up something" anyway.

1) Blessings Jar (I found this idea here)
  •  Take a jam or coffee jar and decorate it  
  • Cut up some bits of paper and put them by the jar with some pens or pencils.  Put the jar somewhere everyone can access it, like the kitchen table.  
  • When something good happens or someone has been kind to you, write it on a slip of paper and put it in the jar. 
  • Make a routine of opening the jar once a day or once a week when everyone is together, reading the slips and saying thank you to God for God's blessings.
http://media-cache-ec5.pinterest.com/upload/209065607671893860_rXma2OtA.jpg2) Grow grass- This idea brings to life the Lent-Easter message of going from death to life.

  • Gather sticks from outside and make a cross 
  • Decorate cups
  • Place soil in the cups and plant some grass seeds
  • Place the cross in the soil
  • Place in a sunny place, water regularly, and watch as the grass begins to sprout and grow!                                             image source
3) Make pretzels- The story goes that many years go, a monk made pretzels to remind his brother monks that Lent was a time for prayer.  He did this by shaping the bread dough in the form of arms crossed over the heart in prayer. 

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