I thought this article was a helpful one speaking about the history and the point of Lent. Here are a few key paragraphs:
"Lent’s origin is hidden in the early centuries of church history, but we do know that it originated as a time of preparation for Easter. From the church’s earliest days, the resurrection of Christ was celebrated not only each week (on Sunday, the Lord’s Day), but also in a special festival of the resurrection. This festival we call Easter Day, and it is celebrated as the Sunday of Sundays! Lent, as a season of preparation, is traditionally focused on repentance. Speaking biblically, to repent means to make a change in our attitudes, words, and lifestyles. As 16th-century reformer Martin Luther taught, the Christian life in its totality is a life of repentance.
Beginning when we first commit our lives to Christ, and continuing throughout our lives, we are more and more turning away from sin and self-centeredness and more and more turning to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Even though a repentant spirit should mark all we do, it is still appropriate that certain times be set aside for a particular focus on repentance. The church has traditionally done this at the Lenten season (and, to a lesser extent, in the pre-Christmas season of Advent).
Lent, therefore, is a time for focusing on the heart, a time for asking questions about our spiritual health:
Keeping Lent, however, is potentially dangerous, precisely because of this focus on the heart. After all, it is much easier to read a book on prayer than to spend time leisurely speaking with our heavenly Father. It is much easier to fast from certain foods than it is to turn from idols of the heart. It is much easier to write a check than to spend time in ministries of mercy. Consequently, Lent is easily trivialized. The point of Lent is not to give up chocolate; it’s to give up sin!"
- What are my characteristic sins, and how can I work and pray for change?
- What idols have captured my imagination so that my love for the living God has grown cold?
- In what ways is my devotion to Christ and his church less than wholehearted?
- The Lenten season is the spiritual equivalent of an annual physical exam; it’s a time to take stock of our lives, our hearts.