Do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. Hebrews 13:16 (NIV)
That Bible verse serves as the epigram in the three books exploring Lenten sacrifice I launched this week:
It might seem strange to talk about Lent in December. After all, Ash Wednesday won’t roll around again until March 5, 2014. But I hope my helpful readers will pass the information about my new books to whoever organizes Bible studies, dramas, and supper programs for their churches. They may be preparing next year’s programs now.
Speaking of preparation, today is the first Sunday of Advent, and Advent and Lent are sister seasons of spiritual preparation.
During the four weeks leading up to Christmas Day, Christians around the world remember the time when God’s people waited—not weeks, but centuries!—for the Savior God had promised. We traditionally read Bible passages from Old Testament prophets including Isaiah, Samuel, Jeremiah, and Micah, and gospel accounts, especially Luke, that shed light on that promise and its fulfillment in the coming (“advent”) of Jesus. His arrival as a baby in Bethlehem is a joyful occasion, so Advent meditations carry a hopeful note.
During the forty days of Lent, Christians prepare to mark the final fulfillment of the salvation promise, in Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. Although Lent ends with a victory celebration on Easter Sunday, the horrific circumstances of Jesus’s suffering and death give Lenten meditations a solemn tone. As we read the Bible accounts, we wonder, how can we make ourselves worthy of Jesus’ willing sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins? We can’t, of course. But we can reflect on it, with gratitude. And try, in our own small way, to emulate his spirit of self-sacrifice for the good of others and the glory of God.
Giving It Up for Lent and The Sacrifice Support Group might just help folks do that. So please, pass the word!
No matter what your faith, may you find peace, renewal, and true joy during this holiday season!