What Is Lent?
The Christian festival of Lent
by Rebecca Parkinson
Suitable for Whole School (Pri)
To consider the meaning of the Christian festival of Lent.
Preparation and materials
- Have available the words ‘Be prepared’ and the means to display them.
- You will also need to have prepared several cards that describe situations that need some preparation before they occur, such as ‘Going on holiday’, ‘A friend staying for a sleepover’, ‘Taking a ballet exam’, ‘Playing a football match’, ‘Being in the Olympics’ and ‘Producing a school play’.
- Ask the children what they did before they came to school this morning. As each suggestion is made, ask a child to come to the front and mime that action. Examples may include waking up, getting out of bed, getting dressed, having a wash, eating breakfast, packing their bag, brushing their teeth, putting on their coat, walking to school and so on.
Eventually, ask all of the children at the front to perform their action at the same time. Pretend to be surprised at what a lot of preparation has gone into them simply arriving at school!
- Ask if any of the children are Beavers, Rainbows, Cubs, Brownies, Scouts or Guides. Ask them what their motto is. The answer is ‘Be prepared’.
Show the words ‘Be prepared’.
- Ask for a volunteer to hold up the first of your situation cards.
Ask the children what preparations they would need to make for that event. For example, for ‘Going on holiday’, they would need to book somewhere to stay, book tickets for travel or make sure that the car had enough petrol, pack their things and so on.
Discuss each card, and then ask what would happen if no preparation was carried out.
- The celebration that we are thinking about today is called Lent. It is when Christians remember a time of preparation that Jesus experienced.
- Explain that for the first 30 years of his life, Jesus lived at home in Nazareth. At the age of 30, Jesus knew that he was about to start his public work. He was about to start teaching people about God and performing many amazing miracles. He knew that it wouldn’t be easy and that eventually, it would lead to his death.
In preparation for this time, Jesus went off on his own into the desert. He spent 40 days and nights there, and didn’t eat or drink anything. During Jesus’ time in the desert, he was tempted to do several things that he knew were wrong. However, he didn’t give in to temptation and didn’t do anything wrong. At the end of 40 days, Jesus left the desert and began the work that he had come to earth to do. His time in the desert prepared him for this.
- Lent is the period of time that leads up to Easter. It begins on Ash Wednesday (the day after Shrove Tuesday, which is when it is traditional to cook pancakes). For Christians, Easter is the most important time of the year because that is when they remember Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Christians want to ‘be prepared’ for the celebration of Easter, so they use Lent as a time to think more about God, go to special church services and pray. Lent lasts for 40 days and nights (it doesn’t include Sundays), which is the same length of time that Jesus spent in the desert preparing for his work. Lent is meant to focus Christians’ minds on God, but it also helps them to think of others who are not as fortunate as they are.
- As part of Lent, Christians often give up something for 40 days, just like Jesus went without food in the desert. For example, people might give up chocolate, smoking, watching TV and so on. In recent years, there has been a move towards starting something positive during Lent instead of giving something up. Examples would be tidying your room, saying something encouraging to someone every day, making your bed or doing homework without complaining!
Time for reflection
Ask the children if they can think of any other ideas that would be positive things to do for the season of Lent.
Is there something special that they could do during Lent that would help someone else?
Maybe they could spend time on a school project to help people in another country who are not as well off as we are. Alternatively, maybe they could decide to say something nice to someone each day.
Experts tell us that if we do something for 40 days, it will become a habit that we do without thinking about it. Wouldn’t it be good if Lent helped us to carry on doing something positive for the rest of the year?
Thank you that in the business of life, there are times to stop and think.
Help us never to be so busy that we don’t have time to be peaceful and silent.
Thank you for times such as Lent that remind us to think about you and to consider what we can do to help others.
Please help us always to ‘be prepared’ to help other people.
‘You’ve got a friend in me’ from the film Toy Story, available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CNi02gxTI1M (2.04 minutes long)