Wednesday, March 9, 2011

ash wednesday

Ash wednesday is here again, and it is still just as hard on this mother's heart as it has ever been.

It is an odd thing for Christians to take time out to observe this kind of holiday. I do not believe I have seen a secular adaptation of Ash Wednesday at Walmart.   The world may be able to make its own version of Fat Tuesday, Easter and Christmas by subtracting substance and adding bright colors and materialism, but it is hard, even for the best marketing experts, to make a holy day that focuses on our mortality something that will sell.

Today my little girls will come home from school with ashes on their heads.  They will have heard those words,  "From dust you are, to dust you shall return." They will have heard them from the lips of their own father, and have received a reminder of this awful truth from the same hand that feeds them.  They will sport the black reminder of it on their foreheads all day long, but it will likely be forgotten to them, as they rush home to show me their special papers and cheerfully devour whatever it is I set out for an after-school snack.

But I will not forget.  The ashes on those pretty young heads shout to me, and tell me things I would rather not hear.  Especially those ashes smudged on the forehead of Aggie, whose life we will never take for granted.  Will her tumor return this year?  Will she return to dust even before I do?

This holiday cannot be sold without Jesus.  This reality, death itself, cannot be conquered without Him.  But He has conquered it for us, and with the church we look forward to the day when fear and dread will be no more. 

And so, even on this holiday of death, even in this world covered in death, we can sleep in peace.  Whether we are speaking of sleep in our beds or sleep in the grave, we take refuge in the one place that is safe:  in the blood of our Savior, Jesus Christ, poured out for our sins.

I shall lie down and sleep in peace, 
for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.
Psalm 4:8

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