Lent always sneaks up on me. This year it may be because Easter is fairly early, but I'm surprised by Lent more often than not. Maybe I just get caught up in the afterglow of Christmas. Maybe I feel like we've just celebrated some major events in the church year. Don't get me wrong, I love Lenten hymns and soup suppers, but I mean the last few months have included all of Advent, Christmas, the Epiphany season including Jesus' baptism, etc. Didn't we just stop having services on Wednesday nights a couple of weeks ago? Maybe I'm just ready to take a step back and relax a little, to live in the peaceful, seemingly easy time after we celebrate our Lord's birth.
And then Ash Wednesday comes and smacks me. Lent brings with it the reminder that the story doesn't end with the manger and the Magi. It doesn't end with the peace of the "silent night." Lent nudges me toward the messy, toward the brutal, toward the cross. Lent reminds me that Christ was born to die. That He came to bear witness to the truth (John 18:37). That He came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10). That He did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). And those are all messy things.
Perhaps sometimes I fall into the same mindset as Peter on the mount of Transfiguration. Peter is so content and elated that Moses and Elijah are there with Jesus that he just wants to build everybody a tent and stay there. But on the way down the mountain Jesus reminds the disciples that His story doesn't end on that mountain. He must first suffer and rise from the dead. Jesus keeps His focus locked in. Lent and the cross don't sneak up on Jesus. His priorities are clear and He never wavers.
How wonderful it is that although we may lose our focus because of shallow contentment, or complacency, or simple forgetfulness that Christ never forgets about us. He went to the cross with you in mind. He paid the price for all your sins. He baptized you into Himself. He hears your prayers and comes to you in His Word. He gives you His own Body and Blood to comfort you. The time leading up to the cross may have been surprising to the disciples and Lent may sneak up on us sometimes, but the Lamb of God knew where He was going from the beginning of time: to die and to rise for you.
David Pratt teaches Theology at Faith Lutheran High School in Las Vegas, Nevada and is a member of Mountain View Lutheran Church.
Created: February 17th, 2016