Growing up in the American Evangelical Christian Church, I attended Church nearly every Sunday with the exception of vacations, and even then sometimes we would go to Church with my extended family whom we were visiting. My knowledge of Church and Church traditions was fairly limited to my experiences at my local Church. Any older tradition that Christians did I figured was done mainly by old people and catholics. But the younger generation of Christians doesn’t do those things. They seemed a bit odd at times and unnecessary. I am not attempting to bash the Evangelical Church however I feel that with all of our attempts to be “Contemporary” and “Relevant”, we evangelicals have missed out on a lot of truly great things.
One such tradition is the observance of Lent. This has always felt very catholic to me, and to a certain extent it is. More catholics observe lent than evangelicals. And while their are some things that catholics do that I don’t necessarily feel I need to do myself, lent is an exception.
Christmas gets all the attention. We get out a whole set of decorations and radically transform our living spaces. We wear funny hats. We buy people presents. We get certain drinks at Starbucks. There is an entire season that goes along with Christmas, not only Advent, but the wonder that comes along with the most anticipated day of the year.
I personally love Christmas, I truly do. Not only is it a great time to get together with loved ones, give gifts and drink peppermint white mochas, it is a reflection on the Birth of my Lord and Savior. Growing up, Christmas had an incredible magic to it. I could not get to sleep on Christmas eve. I would wake up at 6:30 am, frustrated that my parents weren’t out of bed yet. After a good hour of nagging, they arose and thus Christmas began. It was the greatest day of the year.
Easter on the other hand always seemed to catch me by surprise. Christmas had passed, I would be back in school, moving right along and WHAM! It’s Easter Sunday! He is Risen! He is Risen indeed! I would go hunt for eggs, eat far too much candy, and then it was back to normal. Easter had no magic to it. Easter had no excitement.
While Christmas is extremely important and indeed should be celebrated, a lot of times Easter doesn’t get the celebration it deserves. Easter is the defining point of the Christian faith. Without it, Christianity is just another religion. Jesus taught some crazy stuff and then was executed. That’s it. End of story. But no! The miracle is that on the third day He rose again! He took on the sins of the world and died, only to rise again! That is the greatest news anyone could ever hear. And yet each year Easter came unexpectantly. What a tragedy!
Lent is the missing Easter season. It’s been there all along. But most evangelicals are missing out. The 40 days prior to Easter are there in order to get ourselves ready for Easter. Often Christians will fast from something- TV, video games, even food. In the absence of this thing, we are brought closer to God, and realize our need for Him. With all of the great new traditions that the Evangelical Church is forming, it is leaving behind many great ones. I pray that more people may realize the value in traditions such as lent and be brought closer to God because of it.