This time of year can be hard. As much as I am looking forward to Spring, we still have a good chunk of winter to get through. The thermometer may eek above freezing during the day, but it dips back down at night. And though the days are gradually growing longer, too often the sun is hidden behind grey clouds. And the trees and bushes are still so brown.
Preparing our hearts for Easter, with images of resurrection and new life, seems more like a Spring ritual, but in fact, Lent always starts in the winter. For centuries, the date of Easter has been marked by the first Sunday after the full moon on or after March 21, the Spring Equinox. So Easter always falls in Spring, but Lent has been relegated to the shorter days of winter, when the ground is still frozen and life is still hidden.
Though Lent transports us to resurrection, it begins with death.
This connection with nature and the seasons can tell us a lot about what it means to prepare ourselves for Easter. Lent is a time to draw into ourselves, to face our sin and its entanglements, and to let them die. It’s a time to recognize our lives for the wildernesses they really are, seeing with fresh eyes the barrenness and emptiness of what we normally find so satisfying. And it’s a time to once again proclaim that if we have only Jesus, we have all we need.
Make no mistake, Spring is coming. Everything around us will soon be teeming with life again, and Lent will usher us into this new season. But we are being led slowly, our hearts thawing and softening on pace with the earth. When the seeds of resurrection are planted in our hearts once more, they will flourish and bloom with joy.
unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies,
it remains only a single seed.
But if it dies, it produces many seeds.
The man who loves his life will lose it,
while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me;
and where I am, my servant also will be.
My Father will honor the one who serves me.”
— John 12:24-26