At the beginning of last December, I embarked on something doomed to fail — a diet. October birthday cakes, Halloween candy, and Thanksgiving pies had caught up with me, and I didn’t want to have to buy new jeans. I did pretty well the first few weeks, but then came the Christmas cookie exchange party I hosted and the annual tradition of making huge amounts of marshmallow chocolate fudge for family, neighbors, and friends (with all the corners and ugly pieces going right to me, of course).
Sugar, you see, is not only tempting and delicious, adding unwanted weight to my thighs, but it’s also tied up in my customs and festivities, adding irreplaceable celebration to the holy-days.
Of course, the words of Proverbs 25:16 are wise:
Have you found honey? Eat only what you need, that you not have it in excess and vomit it.
Still, times of special joy call for times of feasting, such as we find when we remember Jesus’ birth.
December ended. The special treats laden with sprinkles and nostalgia dwindled. Christmas lights and decorations were taken down. The family room inside and trees outside suddenly looked bare. The days were short, dreary, and cold.
Now was the time to enter into the Lenten season, joining many others on New Year’s fasts, but for a different reason.
I don’t come from a church that observed Lent, but many years ago, I started the tradition of choosing one item from which to fast during the Lenten period. Although I have given up my beloved fiction books and replaced the car radio with prayer, most of the time I tend to give up addictive sugar. I choose it partly because I enjoy it so much (too much), and I know it will continually remind me of Jesus’ much greater sacrifice for me.
The other reason, however, is more of a feeling. Without sugar, even with days slowly warming into spring around me as Easter approaches, and even as delicate flowers unfurl through the barren earth, the world still feels less festive. It feels more like a time of mourning, the feeling I want as I focus on Jesus’ suffering and death before His resurrection.
Somehow bitterness and emptiness without the sweetness of Christ becomes more of a reality. My heart longs for Him.
Then Easter comes — Easter, the celebration of the Life that started all life, the victory over the death that winter mimics, the Savior sweeter and brighter than any jelly bean.
As I savor a Cadbury chocolate egg on Easter day, I realize it joins with all the other signs of spring and the Lenten season itself to point to Jesus, the greatest One to be celebrated.