I haven’t made a mistake; Lent is all about being joyful. Lent is about self-denial and abstinence, but to think it must then be about being miserable is to miss the point.
Lent rightly focuses on the forty days Jesus spent in the desert. Jesus was not only imitating Israel’s forty years in the wilderness, he was also fulfilling the heart and soul of the Jewish festival of Tabernacles.
Tabernacles lasted eight days when families would live in tents to remind themselves of God’s great goodness and faithfulness during those desert years. In particular, they celebrated the provision of food and water and God’s tangible presence among them as his people.
Jesus in the desert was celebrating God’s goodness, provision and presence which he would himself demonstrate by his acts of mercy and kindness and by his fresh teaching of the Law. What is so odd with this celebration is the statement, ‘he was hungry.’
He was hungry because he’d been fasting for forty days and nights, an outrageous act that seemed to deny what Tabernacles was all about. He did this not because he was denying joy but because he was rooting it in a different place; in the Kingdom he himself was bringing.
This is why we mark Lent as we do. We want to declare to all who will hear that joy is available for them and this joy is to be found in the Kingdom of the Son. But there is therefore a demand laid upon us all; that is that we choose ourselves to embrace in our lives day by day the joy of the Lord.
When Jesus faced the enemy, he was hungry, but he was also filled with joy because he was the Son who would remain faithful and true to who God had called him to be.
When Jesus faced the enemy, he was hungry, but he was also filled with joy because he was the Son who would remain faithful to the path of obedience he was called to tread; the path that would lead to the cross but also to his being resurrected in joy and in glory.
Have we reasons to be cheerful in Lent? Yes we have! and may we choose to embrace them in our hearts and lives day by day by day that our joy may be complete.