Devotions for Lent
A Guide to Lent and Easter for Young People
(Notes for parents and caregivers about this page)
What is Lent all about?
Easter is when we celebrate the rising of Jesus after his death on the cross. It's a great day: because of Easter, we don't have to be afraid, and we never have to be apart from God. But at one time, we were apart from God and had much to fear. We can learn about this time and about why Jesus died on the cross during a season called Lent, a forty day period leading up to Easter. Easter is the goal, the great day ... but before we get to Easter—before Jesus gets to Easter—we have to deal with death.
Why did Jesus have to die?
God cares about what happens when we are together—God loves relationships. At a deep place inside of us, we know that we need each-other and that we need to be with God. When we do things that are hurtful to others or that hurt our relationship with God, we become separated. What separates us from God? Not listening to God's Spirit, who speaks within our conscience; not loving the ones God loves; or not speaking the truth at a time when somebody needs to hear it. Everybody trips up from time to time, and we may be surprised to see how far away we've gotten from what's good, how far we've drifted from God. When we're far from God, we're not at peace: our hearts are not at rest. The scripture says, 'Everyone has done wrong and is far away from God' (Paul's letter to the Romans—3.23). As if that weren't bad enough, without God's help, we are not able to fix it. Without God's help, we can't come back, and the people born to be in relationship with God are faced with the terrible fact of living their whole lives and dying apart from God.
But on the first Easter Sunday, God said , "Even though people have done wrong and turned away from my love and my grace, Jesus has let himself become the separated one. Jesus took the world's trouble on himself: he died and was separated from me. My own child," says the God of all creation, "was cut off from my love and grace, and felt my anger instead of you. But now my anger is spent, the enemy death is defeated, and everything is forgiven. Though Jesus was dead and cut off, I have made him alive again, and we'll not be apart ever again."
"Now," God says, "when you are far from me, run to Jesus (this kind of running is not with your feet, but with your imagination). Jesus is the way back to me. Run to Jesus and when you are near him, you will be near to me also. I love you when you are far, and when you are near. In fact, I love you so much that Jesus is my gift to you forever, so that whenever you are near him, I will remember that he has paid all the debts, suffered all the humiliation, endured all the injury, and dealt with death once and for all. "
What is Lent good for?
God has given us a great and comforting gift. ... But it's easy to forget what God has done for us. We forget that it was for our sake (and because of our wrongs) that Jesus suffered. We can add to our wrongs when we try to make ourselves comfortable without God: when we try to make ourselves feel better with sweet things to eat, a new toy, always playing games, or watching videos. We fill up with all sorts of things, always hoping that they will make us happy. We may be happy in the moment—and there are times when such things are a comfort, or even a great way to celebrate—but the kind of happiness they provide doesn't last very long. We just end up wanting more; they cannot really satisfy.
Some ways to remember what God did
During Lent, many Christians choose to do without these comforts. Instead, they try to make room for God again. When we do this, we may feel a lot of things: we may feel uncomfortable for a short time, we may feel sad that we can't have what we want ... but we also can feel nearer to God.
Decide with the others in your home what you can do to make room for God. Giving up comforts helps us understand how much Jesus gave up for us. Try to give up something each week during Lent. You could have a day without dessert (or even a whole week!). How about going without games or videos? If you give up desert, or video games, or anything that costs money, think about taking the money you save and using it to help someone who has less than you. Can you think of other things you can give up? Can you think of ways to help those who are often hungry, or who are less comfortable?
Now, with all the free time you have (!), start to fill up with the things that last. Spend some time learning about the days before Jesus died: read the stories about Jesus' last week in your bible. Imagine what it would have been like to be with him at that time. Do the people who were with Jesus help him? Do they understand what is happening? Right before Jesus was arrested he was filled with sorrow and needed to pray, but the friends he brought with him fell asleep. Would you have been able to stay awake?
"The sorrow in my heart is so great that it almost crushes me. Stay here and keep watch with me." (Matthew 26.38 TEV)
But as you remember Jesus' death, don't forget the most important thing ... Easter is coming. Remember that Jesus was not beaten by death. Jesus has won a great victory! He is the only one that could. He is the only one strong enough to overpower death. That's why God sent him to set us free from this great fear.
Remember, because of what Jesus did, we don't have to be afraid, and we never have to be apart from God. Because of Easter, we have hope, and our hearts can be at rest.
Want to learn more?
You may want to read in your own bible about the events leading up to Easter. You can start with these passages:
Matthew chapter 26
Parents and Caregivers
This page is written with young readers in mind, and they may find it easy to read and understand. However, these are big ideas: adults may want to read along, or simply use this page as a guide to talk to their child about Lent. If questions arise that are hard to answer, I encourage you to seek out a leader in your community, or feel free to send me an email with questions. If your family is thinking of giving up food or other comforts, please see the fasting page for suggestions and guidelines appropriate to all ages.
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