LEAven Blog


March 2024 Is Filled with Contemplation, Preparation, and Celebration!

     Because Easter Sunday is a festival that is a “moveable celebration,” it will fall on March 31, 2024.  The day of Easter is determined by astronomical events and is celebrated on the first Sunday, after the first full Moon on or after the vernal equinox.1   This March, Christians celebrate important festivals such as: St. Patrick’s Day; the start of Lent in the Eastern Orthodox Church; the 3rd – 5th Sundays in Lent, Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and The Resurrection of Our Lord/Easter Sunday, to name a few.

     By the time this blog is published we will be in the last stages of the antisipatory season of Lent.2  Lent was established by the early Church as a season of preparation for Christ’s resurrection and a time of penitence and meditation on the suffering that Jesus endured during the final days of His life.  Lent also focuses on forgiveness and the new life in Christ that we have in our baptism.  This was evident in the ancient Church’s celebration of the Easter Vigil on the night before Easter.3  The Easter Vigil recalls the great events written in the Bible that remind us that we have been brought out of the darkness of sin into the light of Christ’s resurrection.  In the Easter Vigil, the Bible readings focus on the stories of:

  • The Creation
  • The Flood
  • Abraham and Isaac
  • The Exodus
  • Ezekiel and Valley of the Dry Bones
  • The Passover
  • Jonah
  • The Three Men in the Fiery Furnace

     Notice how the stories above are about life – a gift of new life that was…

  • Born in creation…
  • Given to Noah and his family…
  • Given to Isaac…
  • A gift of the freedom from bondage and slavery…
  • Given to the dry bones in the valley…
  • Celebrated as the Angel of Death passed over God’s faithful people…
  • Given to Jonah and those in Nineveh…
  • Given through faith to the three men in the fiery furnace! 

     In the ancient Church, the culmination of the Easter Vigil came in the rite of Baptism for the catechumens 4followed by the services of the Word and the Sacrament.5  The Easter Vigil is not celebrated commonly in many Christian church denominations today.  Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, the Anglican Communion, and Lutheran churches still celebrate the Easter Vigil in which the “alleluia,” that was “buried” on Transfiguration Sunday, is “resurrected” during the Vigil.

     The “burial of the alleluia” is a tradition that dates to the 5th century during the forty-day penitential season of Lent. The word, “alleluia” (a.k.a. hallelujah) comes from the Hebrew word, hallū Yāh, and means “Praise the Lord.”  Many Lutheran churches will take down the “Alleluia” banner on the Sunday of the Transfiguration of Our Lord and place it in a box until the Easter Vigil and/or Easter Sunday when the “alleluia box”6 is opened and the Easter shout, “Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  ALLELUIA!” resounds throughout the church. 

     On page 417 of The Lutheran Service Book (LSB) you will find the hymn, “Alleluia, Song of Gladness.”  Read that hymn with your class and when you come to the third stanza (translated from an 11th century Latin text) you will find these words:

“Alleluia cannot always Be our song while here below;

Alleluia, our transgressions Make us for a while forgo;       (forgo: to relinquish, give up, omit)

For the solemn time is coming    (solemn: sincere, serious, intense) When our tears for sin must flow.”

     These words remind us of the penitent nature of the Lenten season and remind us of our need for Jesus, our blessèd Savior, who took the sins of the world upon Himself and carried them to the cross.  In these last days of Lent help, your students contemplate the price that Jesus paid to ransom them from their sins.  It is a time to remember our baptism and the faith given freely to us by the Holy Spirit.  It is a time to walk with Jesus on his final journey from Bethany to Jerusalem, to his death on the cross, and to his resurrection on Easter Sunday morning.  It is a time to contemplate our sins, yet a time to recall that through Jesus’ death our sins are forgiven!  In these last days of Lent, teach your students, in age appropriate ways, about Lent so that they will know how and why we contemplate, prepare, and celebrate during March of 2024.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  According to his great mercy, he has

caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

I Peter 1:3

“Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!”

1 The vernal (spring) equinox occurs when the sun moves northward across the celestial equator in the northern hemisphere.  This   

  results in a nearly equal amount of daylight and darkness at all latitudes.  Last year Easter fell on April 9th; next year it will  fall on April  

  20th.   Easter Sunday can fall between March 22 and April 25. 

2 The word, Lent, comes from the Middle English word lente (“spring”) and is related to the Old English lang, long (long), of langian

  (to grow longer).  These old words may refer to the Lenten days of spring getting longer.

3 Vigil: staying awake at times when sleep is customary; staying awake in devotional prayer; keeping watch.

4 Catechumens are children, young people, and adults who had been studying the teachings of the Christian Church.

5 See: https://witness.lcms.org/2022/this-is-the-night/ for an article about the Easter Vigil in The Lutheran Witness.

6 Some churches today place the alleluia banner into a box that is shaped in the form of a miniature coffin/

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Dr. Jeffrey E. Burkart, former Associate Dean of the College of Vocation and Ministry and Coordinator of Lutheran Teacher Education, now serves in retirement as Emeritus Professor of Education and Artist in Residence at Concordia University, St. Paul, MN. He is a nationally known teacher, author, speaker, dramatist, poet and musician. Dr. Burkart has over 200 publications including 12 books, numerous professional journal articles, book reviews, chancel dramas, Christian musicals, hymns, poems, CD recordings, films and videos.

Before coming to Concordia, St. Paul, he taught in LC-MS elementary, junior high, and secondary schools in Indiana, Missouri, Nebraska, and Wisconsin. He and his wife, Martha, have three grown sons (Jonathan, David and Andrew) who all are proud graduates of King of Kings Lutheran School and Concordia Academy, Roseville, MN.