A Time to Celebrate
by Chris Tiegreen
The best movies I’ve ever seen end with an amazing victory and an enormous sense of relief or celebration. The battle is won, the challenges are overcome, the losses are restored, the victors rejoice—and I go home satisfied that everything turned out the way it should have.
In every case, of course, a lot happened along the way to set up that victory. The battle was intense, the challenges were overwhelming, and the losses were devastating. No one cheers for a hero who overcomes a minor speed bump; we want heroes who do heroic things. We sit through all sorts of impossible situations to see how they will turn out, hoping for and anticipating a satisfying resolution. And if it’s really satisfying, we sometimes sit through those same scenes again to recapture the sense of impossibility and celebrate the ending once more. We love a good story, and good stories almost always involve insurmountable odds that are overcome in the end.
That’s why many Christians observe Lent. It isn’t (or shouldn’t be) just for the sake of somber reflection or self-denial. It’s an act of reliving the story—the cosmic battle Jesus won on our behalf, the overwhelming challenges He is overcoming, and the restoration He has promised in exchange for our devastating losses. When we spend 40 days before Easter thinking through the fallenness and brokenness of this world, the wounds and pains we have experienced, and the insufficiency of our own efforts to overcome them all, we aren’t just lamenting the past or wallowing in our disappointment. We are anticipating the moment of victory, the satisfying end of the story when all things are set right. We are counting on experiencing the ultimate plot resolution once again.
That makes Lent a time not of sorrow, but of celebration. We are on a journey toward a miraculous ending, and it’s worth experiencing again and again, year after year, like sitting through our favorite movie one more time because the resolution is just so satisfying. There is no more miraculous story than that of our fatal fall and our astonishing rescue, and there is no event in history more worth celebrating. In spite of its reputation as a solemn season, Lent is really the buildup for the universe’s most festive occasion.
There are a lot of ways to anticipate the great victory of Resurrection Sunday by remembering the battles, challenges, and losses of a broken world. Fasting, prayer, and meditation are among them, and reading plans and devotionals can be vital prompts to supplement regular worship practices. However it happens, the human spirit needs to experience both the depths and heights of its salvation. But because we know how the story ends, we know the solemnity of the season is never its major theme. It is only one part of a time of extravagant celebration.
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