Why is it called Ash Wednesday?

Ash Wednesday is approaching

Your family is invited to the Ash Wednesday service at 7 PM at FUMC at the downtown location…

Yes, your children are invited to attend.

Which means they would get something out of it.

Are you squeamish – for your kids – about the part with the ashes? (You know, the part of the Ash Wednesday service where the pastor using ashes, marks a cross on your forehead.) Okay, I’ll admit that back in the day – I was.

The sign of the cross in ashes on a forehead

Time Out. Talk about…A speech bubble

What is it with the ashes?

What is that all about?

Here are some details to share with your children. Print out a copy of this discussion guide here. (Why not a cheat sheet to have with you when you talk about Ash Wednesday/Lent?)

Even if you don’t plan to attend the service, this is still important to share. And don’t feel bad if it doesn’t happen until Thursday or even Saturday next week! (Or whenever!)

  • What is Ash Wednesday? It is the first day of Lent.
  • What is Lent? Lent is the 40 days before Easter. (For the fact-checker, Sundays are not counted.) It marks the time period when we “prepare” ourselves for Easter. This preparation can be a deeply personal event. (Though it is okay to share your thoughts with others if you feel like doing so.)
  • What are we preparing for? It is not about stockpiling lots of chocolate bunnies! It’s about asking ourselves tough questions like how much do we invite God into our daily lives? What are ways to foster a closer relationship with God? (Because God would really love to be your best friend!) It’s about putting our hearts and minds in order, so that when Easter finally arrives, we are ready to celebrate, to shout Alleluia!
  • Why do we celebrate Easter? It’s an important holiday because of what Jesus did for us as a part of the first Easter. Jesus died for us so that our sins could be forgiven. And the happiest news: Three days later he rose from the dead! Jesus showed us that God’s love and forgiveness is more powerful even than death.
  • What is the significance of Ash Wednesday? Since it starts off Lent, it specifically reminds us of our need for the whole point of Easter: we all make mistakes. We all sin. (Sins are anything we do that separates us from God; that pushes God and/or other people, away.) We all need forgiveness, over and over again! At the Ash Wednesday church service we hear that it is okay for us to admit we aren’t perfect; we can let go of what has happened in the past.
  • Why ashes? Ashes are produced when something is burned. It means that something has “died.” In Bible times when people were very sad or sorry, they put ashes on their heads and dressed in “sackcloth” – very scratchy clothes. (Read about such an instance in Esther 4:1.) It was a symbol of how bad they were feeling. When the ashes are placed on your forehead the pastor will say, “The old has died.” Your response can be to say, “The new has come.”
  • Why ashes in the sign of a cross? It is a symbol of your need for God’s love and forgiveness. Because the ashes are marked in a cross this says: “There is hope. Though I have messed up, I am marked as a child of God. I will try, during Lent, to live closer to God.”

Even if your family doesn’t attend the Ash Wednesday service or if your child balks at getting marked with ashes, how about following this routine during bedtime prep that night:
As your child washes their face, place your hand on their shoulder and say… God washes away all of your sin. God loves you and promises to help you live as a child of God.

By following this simple step…

You have just blessed your child!

See you in church?

Click on a box if you would like to…
A check-box Satisfy your curiosity about why you should bless your child.
A check-box View other suggested blessings.

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Photo credit:
Forehead with ashes by mtsofan, who licensed this photo on Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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One thought on “Why is it called Ash Wednesday?

  1. Good reading for adults too! (I’ve been looking at sackcloth scripture verses for my blog this week. Glad we don’t wear it now. Ashes on the forehead is a good alternative!)

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