John and I don't come from liturgical backgrounds, and other than Advent, I've never paid much attention to the traditional Church calendar. But this last year we were encouraged to try something new during the Lenten season. We used a devotional guide to help us prepare for Easter, much like you might use an Advent Guide to help prepare for Christmas. I really enjoyed the daily devotional guide I used and wanted to pass it along to you in case you find it helpful as well.
In most local churches I've been a part of, Easter shines brightly for a day and then we move on. But last year I spent the 40 days prior to Easter reflecting on Jesus' work and sacrifice, and considering that our sin placed him on the cross. I looked forward to the glad celebration of Easter in a fresh and new way. When Easter arrived, I found I could celebrate the Resurrection with even more joy and gratitude.
If you'd like to look at what I used, it's called Journey to the Cross: Readings and Devotions for Lent, by The Gospel Coalition. It's a PDF you can download at no charge and use on your own or with your family each day. You may need to modify it for younger children, but you could at least read the Scripture together and ask them some of the reflection questions that would be on their level. The Lenten season starts this year in just under two weeks, on February 10.
Last year was also the first time that John and I attended an Ash Wednesday service. I was humbled to kneel before the altar and have the pastor put a cross of ashes on my forehead while saying, "Remember you are dust, and to dust you will return." It was a comfort and relief to remember that I am a mere mortal, and that God knows this. As Psalm 103:13-14 reminds us, "As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust." That humility before God helped me appreciate His great gift of abundant life even more.
I learned that the ashes they used at the service came from the palm branches of the previous year's Palm Sunday celebration. (Palm Sunday is the Sunday before Easter, when we remember Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem just a few days before his execution.) I thought that was a neat picture of Jesus' triumphal power coupled with his willing sacrifice of Good Friday.
You can certainly appreciate Easter whether or not you do anything during the Lenten season. But I'm glad I had the opportunity last year to use that traditional time to get ready for Easter in a new way.
What have you found helpful to prepare your and your family's hearts for Easter?
Blessings to you on the journey,