Lent is that season right before Easter. Even if you have been in the church for a long time, you may not be able to answer all of these questions. In a nutshell, it is the forty days and forty nights where Christians are to give up something in order to feel the full glory of God on Easter Sunday.
Where did it come from?
In Matthew 4:2, we learn that Jesus spent 40 days in the desert fasting before the devil came and tempted him. He was getting himself ready for his ministry.
What is the main idea behind Lent?
The main idea is that Jesus allowed himself to be tested. If we are serious about following him, we will do the same.
What do people usually give up for Lent?
Some people actually do the 40 days of fasting, but there are other options. You could give up chocolate, salty snacks, or even coffee for Lent. Children could give up candy.
When did Lent start?
It started in the fourth century. Traditionally, it is associated with penitence, fasting, alms giving, and prayer. It is a time for giving things up balanced by giving to those in need.
How should one approach Lent?
The best way to approach Lent is see it as an opportunity. Lent actually means spring time. It is a little hard to get one's head around this but out of the darkness of sin's winter, a repentant, empowered people emerge. It truly is a joy-filled season.
Why should one be surprised by joy during Lent?
Our self-sacrifice, what it that may be, serves no purpose unless we are able to satisfy the heart's deepest longing, unity with Christ. In Christ - in his suffering and death, his resurrection and triumph - we found our truest joy.
This joy is costly. It arises from the reality of our sin, which crucified Christ. Meister Eckhart points out that those who have the hardest time with Lent are "the good people". Most of us are willing to give one or two things; and we may also admit our need for renewal. But actually die with Christ?
Another way to look at joy is see that our need for repentance cannot erase the good news that Christ overcame all sin. Christ' resurrection frees us from ourselves. His beautiful, empty tomb turns our attention away from all that is wrong with us and with the world, and spurs us on to experience the abundant life he promises.
Do you want to experience that life? I know I do.