Christmas decorations are long gone. Even Burns Night will soon be a distant memory. In stores up and down the land, Easter eggs are already appearing. But our local supermarket has a single poster reminding people that Tuesday 5th February is Pancake Day. Of course, they fail to mention that 6th is Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent and five weeks of fasting in the Christian church. You can’t blame them, of course. Would you advertise an event that takes away your business?
Despite gloomy predictions, this Christmas was still profitable on the high street. But in these days of mounting consumer debt, shoppers are becoming more canny and less likely to overload the credit cards in the winter sales.
But Lent is about more than just recovering from over-eating and over-spending at Christmas. Eating less is supposed to be complemented by praying more. At this time, more than any other, we are meant to contemplate our need of a Saviour. Liturgical prayers in Lent cause us to consider our mortal state and repent of our sins. Many people condemn the commercialisation of Christmas because it detracts from the story of Jesus’ birth. How much more dangerous is the trivialisation of Easter into a season of bunnies, chicks and eggs.
Of course, it’s possible to overdo the solemnity and forget the joy of the resurrection. In the film Chocolat a new arrival in a provincial French village sets up a chocolaterie during Lent. The Mayor is scandalised and sets about destroying the woman’s reputation. Alas, in breaking into the shop to destroy the window display, he is seduced by the tempting aroma, and gorges himself on the delicious creations.
Chocolat ends with a feast after on Easter Sunday – with plenty of the sweet treat in evidence. There is great celebration as relationships are mended, past pain is healed and a community comes alive. But all who celebrate have had to honestly face their own sins and prejudices.
The opposing temptations of selfish greed and arrogant austerity can only be avoided by using this period of Lent to examine our motives before God. We must confess our sin, ask him to cleanse our hearts of all selfish desires, and decide to live in obedience to him.
Then we can enjoy our Easter eggs, secure in the knowledge of our salvation and an eternal home in heaven.