The year 2016 is barely three weeks old as I write this and it seems no time at all since we were caught up with our wonderful celebration of Christmas. It seems strange this early in the year for our thoughts to be turning to the season of Lent, but Lent in fact begins on Wednesday 10th February.

Lent is a time for reflection and preparation for Holy Week and Easter Sunday which in 2016 falls on 27th March. Some Christian denominations   encourage their members to fast or give up certain things e.g. chocolate or sweets, during Lent. The Reformed churches do not require the giving up of specific things during Lent. However I think Lent is a good time to think of taking up something or beginning something new. For instance if you haven’t been to Focus on Faith or Quest or the House Group before, I suggest that during Lent it might be a time when you could start to go along to one or other of these groups for the first time – you may well want to make it a regular thing!!

Also during Lent, on 29th February, Fairtrade Fortnight begins. If you are not in the habit of purchasing fairly traded goods already (I know many of you are) then this might be a good time to begin.

These are just a couple of Lenten ideas, I am sure you can think of some of your own. But Lent is a time for thinking about and remembering Jesus giving himself for the life of the world. The world is desperately in need of the message of salvation Jesus brings. If the world is to be saved from violence, terrorism and war, the threat from climate change as well as the evils of poverty and hunger then more than ever the world needs to look to the self-giving example of Jesus and live by the standards of love, mercy, forgiveness and compassion he set.

If the world is to give things up for Lent and for good – let it give up cruel and senseless violence and hatred. Let it give up greed, selfishness and wanton disregard of the planet we all share and depend on.

It saddens me beyond words when appalling acts of terror are carried out for any warped reason but especially when the perpetrators claim to kill innocent people, “in the name of God!!” What god? (Small letter is intentional.) Certainly not the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who came to this world as a baby in a manger to bring “life in all its fullness.” (John 10:10)

Let us carry Christ’s message of life and love in our hearts throughout Lent and beyond.