Today some Christians will attend worship services and receive the imposition of ashes.
With two strokes of a finger dipped into the ash created by the burning of last year's palm branches mixed with a little water, the worship leader places the sign of the cross on the forehead or back of the hand.
It's a reminder of the blackness of our sin which Jesus came to earth to wipe away permanently.
While at Lutheran High School, Pastor David Shadday from St. Paul Lutheran Church was our traditional speaker and worship leader on Ash Wednesday. In addition to a good speaker, he plays the guitar and sings.
During the imposition of ashes he sang a song with a refrain which includes the words, "a quiet contemplation." Despite an internet search, I can't find the lyrics or a link to it to share. The song is soothing and yes, a contemplative prayer as we prepare our hearts and minds to listen to Jesus.
During the season of Lent, the 40 days (excluding Sundays) between today and Easter Sunday are a time to think about Jesus' ministry on earth. We hear the Passion story as His enemies seek to kill Him. We read about the disciples, among His closest friends on earth, and how they abandon ship when soldiers show up with an arrest warrant.
The good news is we know how the story ends, with Jesus triumph over sin, death, and the devil.
You can check out the Biblical account starting in Luke with chapter 21, verse 5.
Because the black ashes represent our ashes, our death, and our sin - there is joy this day in knowing Jesus came to us to pay our debt in full.