Today is Ash Wednesday, and it’s earrllyyy this year!

This is the earliest we’ll have Ash Wednesday for at least the next decade.

I don’t know about you, but I’m still humming Christmas songs.  I’m still finding decorations in corners of my house. I’m still paying holiday bills, and now I’m shocked to find Lent knocking at the door.

Wow.  Really?  Ash Wednesday doesn’t really lend itself to being a surprise party.  You know?

But if this Holy Day has sneaked up on you the way it’s sneaked up on me, then what do we do about it?

How can we invest ourselves in a season of Lent that has come a week or two too early for our personal preference?

Here are three ideas for dealing with an Ash Wednesday Surprise:

  1.  Be gracious.  If you’ve ever had a surprise party thrown on your behalf, then you know that the best thing to do is to act like this is the best thing ever!  Even if you weren’t ready for the shock and awe, there’s an art to being a good guest of honor.   If you find yourself at an Ash Wednesday Service tonight, try to remember that this is for you.   This is how our church helps its members begin some of the most valuable preparation work we do all year.
  2. Be present.  You may be asked to set aside some of the life-practices that have been weighing you down.  Even if you might not be quite ready for the self-denial that comes with Lent, you can temporarily set all the stuff you’re carrying on the pew next to you, can’t you?  If you need to pick some of it back up after the service and take it home, not quite ready to give it up, that’s okay.  There’s still time.  But for the moment, let go and let God.
  3. Be marked.   You will likely have the opportunity to have the sign of the cross imposed in ash on your forehead.   It will be there the rest of the day–when you go to the grocery store, as you drive through Taco Bell, as you interact with friends and family and total strangers.   The funny thing is, it may publicly represent some deeper meaning than you’ve even allowed yourself to feel so far.   That’s okay.   Let it do it’s work on you.   Look in the mirror often tonight.  Rub it off on your hands so you can see the ash on your fingers.   Ash Wednesday can be powerful, so let it do it’s work.

Even if today came as a surprise to you, you can do these things, can’t you?

You can be gracious…

you can be present…

and you can be marked.

And then, you can begin.

Have a great Lent,