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Helping Your Student Understand Ash Wednesday

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What is Lent?

Lent is the 40 days, not counting Sundays, before Easter.

What is Ash Wednesday?

The first day of Lent is called Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday gets its name from the practice of placing ashes on the foreheads of the faithful as a sign of repentance. Repentance is turning away from sin and turning towards God. Sin is anything we think, anything we say, anything we do or anything we fail to do to please God.

Where do the ashes come from?

The ashes used are gathered after the palm leaves from the previous year's Palm Sunday are burned. 

Why is it called Lent?

Lent is an old Anglo-Saxon word meaning to lengthen. The Anglo-Saxon Lent is observed in spring when the days begin to get longer.

What do we do during Lent?

For some Christians, Lent is a period of fasting and repentance in preparation for Easter.

Why 40 Days?

When you read your Bible you can't help but be impressed by the significance of the number 40 whether it is 40 days or 40 years. Here are some examples:

  • In Genesis, the flood which destroyed the earth was brought about by 40 days and nights of rain.
  • Moses was 40 years as a shepherd before he saw the burning bush.
  • Moses fasted for 40 days before receiving the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai.
  • The Israelites wandered the desert of 40 years before reaching the Promised Land.

Jesus spent 40 days fasting in the wilderness in preparation for his ministry.

Why is Sunday not included in the forty days of Lent?

From about 325 AD, it began to be common for people to fast for forty days following the model of Jesus. Fasting then was rigidly observed and meant only one meal a day. Meat and fish were totally forbidden. The forty days were continuous, but because Sundays could never be fast days the forty days were extended. Adding four days onto Lent made the beginning Ash Wednesday. Sunday was not considered a fast day because Sunday is a weekly reminder of Jesus' resurrection. He said, "How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them?" (Mark 2:19, NIV)

During the Service 

The pastor  will be leading us through several activities during the service. Here are some kid-friendly instructions to help your student engage in worship this evening.

SACRIFICE: As you enter there are rocks and markers on a table. If you have already decided on something then write it on the rock and take it with you. If you’re still trying to decide then take the rock with you as a reminder to choose something. See the back for practical ways you can fast with your kids. 

SINGING: Sing out! If you don’t know the song listen to the words and think through their meaning. Remember this time is about God and not about you so be sure that your attention and focus is on Him and don’t distract others from worshipping!

REFLECTION: This is a time for us to talk to God and do any business we might have with Him. This is done silently in our seats. Is there anything you need to confess? Tell God you’re sorry and ask for forgiveness. Anyone, you need to apologize to? Make a vow to God that you will apologize as soon as you see them again.

COMMUNION: Communion is a time for us to remember the Sacrifice Christ made for us. The bread is a symbol of His body that died on the cross and the juice is a symbol of the blood he shed on the cross. Eating and drinking the bread and juice remind us how great a sacrifice Christ made on our behalf. He took the punishment we deserved. If you have trusted in Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior then you are welcome to participate. If you are unsure or still have questions then it's best for you to stay in your seat or simply say no thank you. 

THE ASHES: The Ashes are a symbol that you have done your business with God during the reflection time. They symbolize that you have repented (meaning turning from sin towards God) and asked God for forgiveness. If you have trusted in Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior and repented during the reflection time then you are welcome to participate. If you are unsure or still have questions then it's best for you to stay in your seat or simply say no thank you.

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Fasting with Kids

Image result for fasting with kids
Here are some practical ways to fast with kids:
  • Make different choices. For a period of time, choose healthy foods for snacking. Instead of cookies, choose carrots. Instead of soda choose water. Instead of fast food, choose nutritious meals.
  • Abstain from sweets. Lead kids to not eat sugar-based foods (candy, cake, pastries) for a designated time.
  • A digital fast. As a family, decide to fast from technology.  This could be as simple as not using the DVD player in the minivan to complete abstinence for 40 days.
  • Grow from short to more intensive fasts. Don’t start with a 40 day, “no (fill in the blank)” fast that will be difficult to achieve. Start small and build on success.
Be intentional about helping kids understand why you’re fasting:
  • Fasting must center on God. If you fast for any reason other than to center on Him; His will and His desire, it will be in vain. A great way to think about/explain it is when we miss or feel bad about what we’re giving up say a prayer of thanksgiving for what Jesus gave up for us.
  • Fasting reminds us that God is our provider of every good and perfect gift. Help kids find this reality.
  • Fasting helps us focus. The point of a fast is to focus on a particular issue, need, concern, or desire. Determine the point and be very intentional to share and help kids understand.
  • Fasting is a discipline, not a punishment. Don’t use the biblical discipline of fasting to ease your guilt or need to punish poor behavior.
  • Model biblical fasting. Kids learn more from what they see than what they simply hear. When teaching the discipline of fasting, know that you can’t lead kids to do something that you’re not willing to do yourself.
  • Don’t sell kids short. While the practice and understanding of biblical fasting will be best suited for older kids, teaching and allowing kids to participate in age-appropriate ways will lay foundations for deeper and more meaningful experiences in the future.

This inwardly expressed discipline (not publicly shared but a private matter between the individual and God) in its traditional sense should be approached with a lot of thought and care.

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