This Wednesday, Feb. 25th, marks Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent. I find it interesting that both Christmas and Easter—two of the biggest Holy days in Christianity--start with periods of preparation (Advent and Lent, respectively). During Advent, we wait for the first coming of our Savior; there's a sense of hope that He is coming. Since the first Advent, we eagerly await His second Advent.
Lent is more sorrowful of a preparation—we prepare our hearts for the saddest day, soon follow by the most joyful day. We celebrate that He came back and are again looking forward to His second coming.
I've found that Easter and Christmas are both much more meaningful when I focus on Lent and Advent, because you can't have one without the other. My dad talks about how Christmas, Good Friday and Easter are a three-legged stool--they all depend on each other. That's true, and in order to celebrate those days deeper, we can't just show up one Sunday and say "He is risen!"but not know why He rose or what the purpose of His death was. Without knowing the reason, how meaningful will our worship be?
Yes, it's ugly to think that Jesus had to "become sin for us" (2 Cor. 5:21) to satisfy the wrath of God, but the fact that He did satisfy the wrath of God fills me with grattitude and joy. Knowing what I've been freed from makes my praise of God so much greater.
Lent didn't become something I was really aware of until college, and since then, it's caused my celebrations of Easter to be much more joyful. This Wednesday when I leave church with the ashes on my forehead, knowing that the period of fasting and preperation has begun, I will be sorrowful, yes, but I will look forward with even greater anticipation to April 12, when I will exhange "He is risen!" "He is risen indeed!" with my friends and family.