Easter comes a bit early this year, making the starting point of Lent, also known as Ash Wednesday, to fall on February 14, a.k.a. Valentine’s Day. Yes, the two will collide this year, which is history in and of itself because the last time this happened was in 1945! Yet, at the same time, this may raise some valid concerns.
So, what does this mean exactly? And just how do we observe Lent in a meaningful way? Can (or should) we celebrate Valentine’s too? Can it essentially be done? Maybe lots of questions are flooding your mind, and you want to find a way to honor Lent while celebrating with those you love.
Well, let’s first address what Lent is and why so many Christians choose to observe it.
The season of Lent is acknowledged in various ways throughout the word, but essentially marks the beginning of time and preparation to remember the events and 40 days that led up to the death of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is a somber yet humbling time where many believers choose to repent and draw closer to the Lord. Many traditions consist of thoughtful and intentional prayers, fasting in preparation, and self-reflection in honor of the selfless sacrifice displayed on the cross.
Given the significance of Lent, do we just forget about Valentine’s Day?
Well, not necessarily. While you can always choose to rearrange the days and celebrate the holiday of “love” on a different day, it can also be used as a reminder of the true love that was portrayed on the cross (John 3:16). No matter what you decide, let’s unpack some ways to observe Lent with our families in a tangible and meaningful way, preparing our hearts for Easter.
1. Give Up Something as a Family
It is customary for many Christians to give up something as a symbolic sacrifice. It generally involves giving up a certain food or abstaining from a particular hobby or activity in an effort to instill healthier habits and be more intentional with our choices. While this is often a personal decision, it can also be something you strive to do as a family. The best part is that you can all hold each other accountable for sticking to it!
Here are some ideas of things to give up as a family:
-No technology or TV at certain times; use the time to have face-to-face conversations.
-Secular music; instead, play only praise and worship songs.
-Fast food; try to eat cleaner, healthier foods.
-Video games; now it is time to bring out the board games.
-Saying ugly or bad bads; bring on more compliments and kind words.
-Soft drinks; be more mindful of drinking enough water.
2. Have a Family Devotional Time
It is important to get quiet and still, so we can seek to hear the Lord (Psalm 46:10). We can etch this practice into the hearts of our children by example. Lent is a perfect segway to beginning the practice of being still and calm before the Lord. Bring your family together at the beginning or end of the day and share a Lent family devotional. Then, discuss it together as a family and hear the hearts of your children. If you need a family devotional that speaks to the issue of Lent, then be sure to check out a few of the titles below:
The Wonder of Easter by Ed Drew
The Way to the Savior by Jeff and Abbey Land (our children’s pastor and his wife wrote this one!)
Praying for Easter C.S. Lewis
Bring Lent to Life by Kathleen M. Basi (great for younger children)
3. Serve Others
A great way to observe Lent as a family and get in tune with the love Jesus has for us is by serving and loving others. After all, Lent calls for us to reflect on the love and ministry of our Lord. Jesus spent the 40 days in the wilderness fasting, all to prepare for what was to come and what the price on that rugged cross meant for the world.
As we deepen our faith and yearn to draw near to our Savior, we can seek His face and ask where we can shine a light for His glory. Start within the confines of your own home, then go out to your local community and branch out from there. Below are a few suggestions to get you and your sweet family started.
-Serve one another at home with random acts of kindness or helping when you see a need.
-Love your neighbors by baking them cookies or asking if you can help them in any way, such as mowing their lawn or bringing in their groceries.
-Make encouraging cards for your mail carrier, trash collectors, or local fire/police department.
-Visit a hospital, retirement home, or charity and volunteer your time.
-Make a meal together and bring a meal to a family in need.
4. Make Use of Resurrection Eggs
You’ve most likely heard of resurrection eggs and the simply sweet way they can share the story of Jesus. However, if you have no idea what I am talking about, a set of a dozen eggs (which you can easily purchase online or create your own) are used to help children engage in the resurrection story. Opening up one egg at a time and revealing a Bible verse along with a tangible item to retell each account provides a lighthearted way for children to interact and role-play the story.
As a former elementary teacher, I love how this captures young hearts while getting them immersed and engaged with this story, which can often be seen as disheartening. This allows children to come to grips with the solemn parts of this story while also delivering a message of hope.
5. Live Simply
As we take time to reflect on the true meaning of Lent, it’s important to note that while this custom can seem like a rather broad concept filled with complexities, we must discuss the simplicity of it all. Jesus came to die for us all, and we honor that with the fruit of our lives. We teach our children that the message of Lent is to draw closer to the Lord, and we can do that by surrendering all.
While we can give up something as a sacrificial offering, we can also choose to live simply and without modern-day conveniences, allowing ourselves to be in “the desert” just as Jesus was. We can imitate Jesus’ example by making our space free of distractions, decluttering areas in our home, and sorting through our closets and pantries to give away what we no longer use, getting back to basics and mere essentials. This will grant us the space to simply be present and sit in the awe and wonderment of our God.
6. Pray Together
Lastly, it is important to be in continual prayer and supplication during this time. We can so easily model this for our children, but helping them understand “why” and “how” we pray during this time of Lent and then allowing them to pray alongside us is invaluable.
Incorporating daily prayer time that is focused on the Lenten theme will help them align their hearts and place their focus on what this season is truly all about. While this can be as simple as coming together as a family and each taking turns to pray out loud or a parent leading the charge, family prayer time is always important. During the season of Lent, it can teach our children that the life and death of Jesus is what gives us hope and can bring healing to a lost and hurting world.
Here are some creative ways to pray as a family this season:
-Make a prayer chain and add to it every day.
-Start with a prayer starter and let everyone in the family share a prayer to go with that theme. Such as today we pray to be generous, to be kind, to love more like Jesus, etc.
-Write your prayers on notecards and then read them aloud.
-Make pretzels as a family and learn of the connection between the pretzel and prayer.
-Give each family member a coloring page with a prayer and verse, and then they can share what it meant to them.
-Recite a prayer together.
-Pray in different rooms of your home, inviting God into each part of your home as you pray together.
A Prayer for Lent
Lord Jesus, we come before You with humble hearts and thank You for what this solemn and sacred season means to us as Your faithful followers. As we begin our journey towards spiritual growth during the season, we ask that You help us see areas in our lives where we need to surrender and seek Your forgiveness. Please have mercy upon us as we repent from our sins, and help us experience Your grace during this time. Please fill our hearts and homes with Your love and light and give us the means to spread that love to others. Lord, I pray that You give us time to observe Lent as a family in a real and meaningful way and that You be a vital part of it. We are so thankful for the selfless sacrifice You made upon the cross and pray we can bring honor and glory to Your name alone. We love you. Amen.
Originally published Thursday, 08 February 2024.