“What are you giving up for Lent?”
How do you react to that question? I personally have always felt a bit uncomfortable about it. Reformers like John Calvin saw great danger in adding rules and expectations beyond what is in Scripture to the Christian life. To believe we are obligated to do anything different for the 40 days leading up to Easter puts an unhelpful burden on the Christian’s conscience, making us feel somehow less faithful to Christ if we don’t give up chocolate, or whatever. It’s important to recognize the place of Christian freedom here. There’s nothing particularly biblical (or unbiblical) about using the traditional church calendar to guide the rhythms of our attention, and a Christian should feel no obligation to do anything different during this period of time.
But here’s why I personally find value in (flexibly) following the liturgical calendar: our attentions need guidance. While some might argue that we should always be reflecting on the centuries of waiting for the birth of Jesus and then his incarnation, on his life and his death, on his resurrection, ascension, and the coming of the Holy Spirit, the reality is that we cannot be focusing on all of these equally all the time. As with any big project, we need to schedule this out across a year so that we can contemplate each of these h