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This past Sunday many of our congregations put away the Alleluia until Easter: by burying or veiling banners, or just singing “Alleluia, Song of Gladness” (ELW 318), an ancient hymn that reflects on how we lay aside our songs of joy for a short time in order to enter into the solemn time of Lent.

This season of Lent which lasts 40 days (not counting Sundays) is a time of reflection, repentance, prayer, and fasting. It recalls Jesus’ 40 days of sacrifice, prayer, and fasting in the desert. During that time, Jesus was tempted by the devil to turn away from God, which he refused to do. During the 40 days of Lent, we test our ability to stay close to Jesus and refuse the temptations that would take us away from God and the way of Jesus; we focus on the life, ministry, and sacrifice of Christ and journey with him to the cross and resurrection.

In Lent, we respond to Emmanuel, which means “God with us,” by committing ourselves to “Be with God.” Now is the season to proclaim that “We are with God.” We journey with Jesus to the cross and reflect on his life, ministry, and sacrifice for our sake. We live more deeply into our identity as “Christ-ians,” the ones who bear his name and follow Christ.

For some, journeying with Jesus includes sacrificing and “giving up” things or behaviors that focus on ourselves and separate us from a deeper relationship with God and others. One of the things that gets in the way of following the way of Jesus is our sense of superiority over others who are either different from us or do things differently than we do. Jesus reminds us that, when we are in Christ, we are called to embody and bring the love of Christ to others.

For others, journeying with Jesus in Lent means “adding” new behaviors and disciplines in our lives that bring us closer to God. Some examples include deepening our prayer and devotional life and being more attentive to helping those in need, both near and far. When we respond to the needs of others in the name of Christ, we walk the way of Jesus and God is glorified.

As Lent progresses, our journey with Jesus to the cross brings us to Palm Sunday and Holy Week. We pick up our cross and follow Jesus even more closely as we come closer and closer to the cross and resurrection and Easter joy. This Lenten journey with Jesus culminates in the joy that comes with Christ’s resurrection and our new life in Christ; it is reflected in our baptism into Christ, by which we are forever joined to Jesus in his death and resurrection. In fact, the ancient, traditional practice of baptizing on Holy Saturday illustrates this vital and life-giving connection between our baptism and Christ’s death and resurrection.

In the coming of Jesus our Emmanuel, we are reminded of “God with us”— that God is with us in good times and bad times, and we are never abandoned or alone. Lent calls us to respond and “Be with God” as we journey with Christ to the cross, resurrection, and new life; our focus and response to Emmanuel, “God is with us,” is now “We are with God.”

People of God: God is with you. This Lent, may you journey more closely with Jesus and live more deeply with God. May your Lent be blessed and bring you the peace and joy of life in Christ.