There’s a big celebration with parties and parades going on in New Orleans today. It’s called Mardi Gras, and it happens every year for Fat Tuesday. Most people know what Mardi Gras is, but what about Fat Tuesday?
Fat Tuesday is actually a Christian-inspired day. It occurs every year on the day before Ash Wednesday, which is the first day of the Season of Lent; and Lent is the season that leads up to Easter.
For many Christians, Lent is a 40-day period of fasting, moderation, or modification of behavior with goals to grow spiritually, draw closer to God, and try to better ourselves as Christian as we prepare for the celebration of Easter. Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus the Christ. His death on the cross served as a sacrifice for our sins. It was a mournful time for His followers. However, three days later it was discovered that His tomb was empty! As He had foretold, Jesus had risen from the dead! He remained on earth for 40 days before ascending into heaven, where He awaits to welcome all who claim His as their Savior and Lord, into eternity.
When Christ died on the cross, He did so to offer himself as the payment for our sins. Through Him, all can be forgiven, slates wiped clean, and new lives begun, for all who confess their sins and strive to change their ways. However, despite being ransomed from shame and guilt, we are still imperfect humans. We still face challenges and temptations, make mistakes, and fall short of being perfect in any way.
The Season of Lent is a time to reflect on all of these things:
- To acknowledge the sin debt Jesus paid on our behalf so that we could be freed from our sins
- Celebrate that Jesus is the Risen Lord who overcame death to offer of us eternity in Heaven with Him – that we will not die spiritually, but find life everlasting
- In choosing life with Jesus, we overcome death to sin (hell)
- Recognize our need for a Savior, that we even the most faithful among us are prone to sin. That every day, as the Bible says, “We fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)
Lent is observed as a time to dedicate ourselves to Jesus, making an offering of ourselves for Him. For me, this offering is a way to acknowledge the offering Jesus made for us when He died on the cross. The Season of Lent also reminds me of my need to be focused and intentional every day in how I live out my faith, and in my personal relationship with God.
Christians observe Lent in various ways. Some choose to fast by denying themselves particular foods and/or drinks (i.e. sweets, chocolate, snacks, meat, coffee, alcohol, etc.). Others might try to undo habits like smoking, bad speech (cursing, gossip, negative comments), watching too much tv, etc.. Some people minimize or give up screen time and use that time to read the Bible or pray. ( If reading the Bible or devotions online, it would probably be ok to use screen time for that. 🙂 ) Other people set aside dedicated time for prayer and devotions, find ways to serve in their communities, or take their lunch to work and give the money they would spend eating out to their church or charity. There are many ways to observe Lent – no specific rules, just the suggestion that the time spent or sacrifices made be done for the purpose of honoring Jesus, growing spiritually, and drawing closer to Him, recognizing our need for Jesus as our Savior and Lord.
Lent is not Biblical. It is not commanded or even mentioned in the Bible. It is a Christian tradition that has evolved over time, and that brings us back to Ash Wednesday and Fat Tuesday!
Ash Wednesday marks the start of Lent, literally. Many Christians attend an Ash Wednesday service during which the sign of a cross is marked on their foreheads with ashes. In both Old and New Testament, ashes are a sign or mourning and repentance. People humbled themselves before the LORD by covering themselves in ashes. Why ashes? Because man was created from ashes, and to ashes he will return.
Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living creature. – Genesis 2:7
God says to Adam and Eve: “…for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
We are humbled by our humanity (being prone to sin), and also by our mortality. Ash Wednesday reminds us these things.
Since Ash Wednesday marks the start of Lent, which will be a time of sacrifice and denial for those who observe the tradition, Fat Tuesday evolved as a way to have one last day of indulgence and revelry before Lent begins.
There are 46 days from Ash Wednesday to Easter, so the 40 days of Lent can be observed by fasting or sacrificing Mon-Sat and taking rest from the fast on the six Sundays, or offerings fast or sacrifices for 40 days straight.
Since Lent is intended to be a time of spiritual growth, I hope you will pray about it and see if you feel God leading you to observe Lent in some way, or perhaps in a new way if you have observed Lent before.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men. – Colossians 3:23
For more about the observance of Lent, you can go to http://www.BibleGateway.com and GotQuestions.org.
God bless you. May you be blessed and be a blessing.