Ash Wednesday is one of the Christian traditions that must look very strange to outsiders. Even those of us who walk around with ashes on our foreheads do a double-take when we look in the mirror.
On Ash Wednesday, many Christians participate in services in which an ash cross is drawn on their foreheads. The idea of using ashes comes from the Old Testament practice of dressing in sackcloth and sitting in ashes as a sign of grief or repentance to God. Ash Wednesday signifies the beginning of Lent, the season of preparation for Resurrection Sunday (Easter). Lent is a time when people repent of (or turn away from) their sins and give up something to (in a small way) reenact the sacrifice that Jesus gave when he died on the cross. People often give up something that they enjoy during Lent.
At our school’s Ash Wednesday service, a young student asked, Mrs. Elaine, is it free? I chuckled and then answered his question. What an interesting question with a double meaning! Of course it’s free, yet it’s not. God’s forgiveness and gift of eternal life are free, yet they cost Jesus everything, including his life. For this reason, we begin the season of Lent to prepare ourselves to understand and accept Jesus’s sacrifice.
Sacrifice means giving something up. It’s easy to give up something you don’t really like, like broccoli or homework. But sacrifice is when you give up something that you love. On Ash Wednesday, Christians around the world make a choice to sacrifice something for the 40 days until Resurrection Sunday (Easter). Some give up a favorite food, some give up electronics, and some give up other things that are special to them. Sundays are mini-celebration days, so Christians may use or eat the things that they have chosen to sacrifice.
During Lent, consider sacrificing something special to you. As a family, discuss some things you might want to sacrifice and what you might do to show God that you love Him. Here are a few examples of things to sacrifice: television time, gaming time, music in the car, favorite soft drinks, desserts, etc. Here are a few examples of things to do to show God that you love Him more than the things you sacrifice during Lent: pray, read your Bible, help someone in need, etc.
As always, our children imitate what they see us doing. So, let us model the meaning of Lent. Although Lent is not a celebratory season, it is a great time to educate our children about the sacrifice that Jesus made for us.