During Advent, which is the time leading up to Christmas, we prepare our hearts by considering what it meant for God to send His Son into the world as a helpless human baby. We sing songs about peace, hope, and love, and look forward to the Christmas Day celebration of His arrival by birth to an unwed teenage mother.
Lent is a similar season, in that we are also preparing our hearts for a celebration of what God did through Jesus. However, in the season of Lent, we join in by thinking about our own sinfulness. We do this to try to better understand the sacrifice that we remember on Good Friday of Jesus’ death on the cross, and the celebration we affirm on Easter Sunday of His resurrection to life and victory over death. We may find our songs more somber and contemplative during this time.
In this in-between, we are looking ahead to Easter. But, we are called to be patiently present in the season of Lent the way Jesus was present in His 40 days of fasting and temptation in the desert. (Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13, Luke 4:1-13) As we are reminded on Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lent season, with the ashes of the palm branches touched on our foreheads, we are but dust and to dust we shall return.
Where do you find yourself in this contemplative season? Are you quick to skip past the temptation and longing and move on to the celebration of Easter? Or do you find yourself tempted to wallow in your depravity and forget God’s grace that covers us? Maybe you are somewhere in the middle, as we should be. We take seriously the gravity of our sin, and know that rejoicing comes in just a few weeks when we remember that He conquered sin and death on our behalf.
“Honest self-examination should lead us to humility and self-forgiveness. It should bring us to a place where we can accept the reality of our flaws without becoming overwhelmed by them.” (Dave & Nan - http://davenan.com/the-false-self/)
I love this quote from Dave and Nan, because that reminder to balance self-examination and humility with confidence in who we’ve been called to be is a challenge. I have a perspective issue between focusing on my faults or my strengths, and therefore leading others to do the same. The solution is not to think more about myself on one side or the other. No, the solution is to think about Jesus more.
I’ve found myself losing this battle to balance perspective well, and what I have needed reminding of in this season is that Jesus is still the focus. He took care of my sin, and I am to receive that gift day after day in light of the brokenness in myself that I can’t help but realize.
As we lead and participate in our churches during this season, may we help each other keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. As we do that, may our hearts be humbled before Him, and our natural outflow be gratitude.