This coming Sunday, our children will decorate “Alleluia” banners in preparation for one last resounding proclamation of that word of praise before we begin the season of Lent. At the end of the service, as we have done in the past few years, we’ll bury the Alleluias outside, and refrain from uttering that word until the joyful good news of Easter morning. While the ground is frozen solid, there is plenty of snow this year in which to bury those banners.
Even if we were not about to enter into Lent, “Alleluia’ is certainly not the first word on many people’s lips as they hear the next forecast. Given the weather this winter, we may already feel like we have entered into a wilderness time of sorts – one not defined by desert and dryness, but rather by insurmountable snowbanks and more moisture yet to come.
Even if the weather has not brought us to such a place, Lent is a season of taking ourselves quite intentionally to uncomfortable places: examining our lives, letting go of habits and practices that diminish us or others, hearing the call to repentance and turning, as we hear on Sunday, both heart and mind toward God. It is not so much about burying our joy, but about making room for the possibility of greater joy: the full life which Christ offers to us and to which the Spirit leads us.
I sometimes tell the children that when we bury the Alleluia, it is a little like holding our breath until we can shout it out again on Easter morning. That is true, but Lent is also about letting go, breathing more fully, and opening ourselves to all that God is doing in our lives.
So, come bury a word this Sunday. And then, on Ash Wednesday and beyond, open yourself to the life that God is creating in you, a life that will lead to Easter joy.