Lent

Dr. Sachi Nakamura(JCFN Board member, Christian books translator, Spiritual Director)

 

Hi everyone. The Lenten season started March 6 this year. How are you spending days in this Lent? As many Reformed churches do not emphasize liturgical calendar, some of you might be unfamiliar with the meaning of Lent.

The universally accepted calendar we use today is called Gregorian calendar and finds its origin in Julian calendar used in the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire first adapted a calendar starting on January 1st. Meanwhile, the liturgical calendar starts at the beginning of the Advent. Also in this calendar, a year is divided into seasons of Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost, according to the life of Jesus and works of the Church. Acknowledging the seasons on the liturgical calendar in our daily life, we are reminded that we are living in Kairos (time of God) as God’s people.

 

Now, Lent is the forty days (without counting Sundays) before Easter. It is the season for us to return to God, the season to reflect and repent, and the season to rededicate ourselves through prayers, Scriptures, and fasting. Traditionally, inspired by the forty days of Wilderness experience of Jesus, people have given up some food or activities.

 

Some people say that the purpose of fasting and giving up in Lent is not to create pains and suffering to ourselves but to create a room for a better nourishment. For instance, by restricting food, we gain deeper insight from the Scriptures; by restricting our regular activities, we gain time for prayers. Historically, some people donated for the poor by saving money for their meat and/or wine. Several years ago while going through a trying time, I gave up “worrying” during the Lent and tried to give thanks to God instead of worrying. There is no instructions in Bible about how to spend Lent. So we can seek for God’s guidance in prayer to find a way to spend Lenten season.  Isn’t it awesome that we are given opportunities to rededicate ourselves to the Lord, day by day, season by season, as often as possible?

 

About half of Lenten Season is past this year. But there are still three more weeks before Easter. If you have not thought about Lent but now you started feeling led, may I encourage you to spend the next three weeks in prayer and reflection, thinking of Jesus’ Passion on the cross for our sins, examining to see if you find an area of life where you are led to return to the Lord?

Approaching Advent

Dr. Sachi Nakamura(JCFN Board Member, Translator of Christian Books, Spiritual Director)

This year, Advent starts on December 2nd. Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before December 25th, and lasts until December 24th. According to the church calendar, Advent marks the beginning of the new year.  

 

As you probably already know, Advent is a time of awaiting for the birth of the Messiah.

 

To us,  Advent is a time to celebrate the birth of our Messiah this earth with gratitude, as well as a time  to remember God’s further promise for us. That promise is for Jesus’ second coming, when he will completely redeem all creation, and this world will come to the full knowledge of the Lord. We are eagerly waiting for Jesus’s second coming in order for the Kingdom of God to be completed. All of creation joins us in waiting for that day.

 

When Jesus first came to earth, he inaugurated the Kingdom of God and taught people the way to live in that kingdom. As God’s people and followers of Jesus, we seek to live as Jesus taught us to on this earth.  But in doing so, we realize that there is a tension that exists in the Kingdom of God between what has already been fulfilled and what is not yet fulfilled. Advent is a time that reminds us of this tension that we live in.

 

What kind of tension are you feeling in your life at this moment? What are you waiting for? How is God personally inviting you to enter into this Advent season? Ironically, December can be the busiest season of the year for Christians having one event after another to attend. In order to not be engulfed by total busyness, take some time for reflection. During this Advent, what is God asking of you? What is He offering to you? What is He inviting you into? May you be mindful of God’s invitation during this 4-week period of Advent.

 

Although it is in English, Biola University offerings a wonderful online Advent devotion incorporating music and art every year. This year, it will be updated daily starting on December 1st until January 7th. If you are interested, please see the link below.

http://ccca.biola.edu/advent/

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