It’s still bitterly cold outside but if you’re a keen gardener you will have noticed that the first snowdrops have appeared and the crocuses and daffodils are tentatively emerging from the waterlogged soil.
The bare and desolate landscape is slowly beginning to change and nature is awakening from its winter sleep.
Earlier this week we had Shrove Tuesday, also known as Pancake Day.
It’s the last day before the start of Lent and many people enjoy eating pancakes, a popular custom that traditionally served to finish the rich food that people went without during Lent.
Lent is the old English word for springtime; it comes from the Germanic root for ‘long’ because in spring the days begin to lengthen.
The word “shrove” can be traced back to “shrive” which means to confess or to be forgiven for our sins. Lent is also a time which the Church has set aside as a reminder that we need to awaken spiritually and think about the direction of our lives.
It covers the 40 days before Easter (Sundays are not included in the count) and it reminds us of the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert after his Baptism as he prepared for his earthly ministry.
During Lent, many Christians prepare for Easter by fasting, repentance, moderation and spiritual discipline.
Many people give something up for Lent, but there is a far more useful alternative to take up things and do something positive.
The call to repentance and to spiritual discipline is as relevant today as it was two thousand years ago.
Many people seem to have lost their way in the world we live in and they struggle to find a meaning in life.
We may enjoy greater prosperity than previous generations, but there also seems to be a greater sense of emptiness in lives which rely on material possessions and seem to lack spiritual values.
Many churches run Lent Courses and Bible study groups at this time and these can be a good starting point for a more prayerful and spiritual lifestyle.
What will you be taking up this Lent?