Let me be completely honest and admit: I don’t get into religious holidays for “religious” reasons. May the stone-throwing commence.
The church I attend used to only observe Christmas and Easter. Now they’ve added Ash Wednesday. One time they observed Maundy Thursday. This is a Southern Baptist Church (though I’m non-denominational – long story) who, historically, hasn’t observed these man-made rituals.
Yes, they are man-made. You won’t find them in the Bible, as such.
Today is Ash Wednesday. In a nutshell, Ash Wednesday is supposed to be about repentance, and preparation for Lent. The Bible I read says nothing about using a holiday to invoke a spirit of repentance, but instead says: “For godly grief produces a repentance not to be regretted and leading to salvation, but worldly grief produces death. For consider how much diligence this very thing — this grieving as God wills — has produced in you: what a desire to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what deep longing, what zeal, what justice! In every way you showed yourselves to be pure in this matter.” (2 Cor. 7:10-11)
In other words, Godly sorrow produces repentance. This is a work of the Holy Spirit, not a religious observance.
In the early church we read nothing in the Bible about special holidays being observed for “Christian” reasons. We see other things (like prophecies, selfless-ministry, etc.) occurring. The Galatians were reprimanded by trying to re-implement old Jewish holidays into The Way. “But now, since you know God, or rather have become known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and bankrupt elemental forces? Do you want to be enslaved to them all over again? You observe special days, months, seasons, and years. I am fearful for you, that perhaps my labor for you has been wasted.” (Gal. 4:9-10)
The lost see us being religious, but not real. We, as a body, need to be moving further from these man-made religious contraptions. These, that are one more thing we need “to do” in order to feel right with God. True Christianity is a daily walking by the Spirit, which includes repentance. Fasting is a regular habit, not reserved for Lent. Personally, I’d rather go each day of the year just living, than have the legalistic encumbrances of the Liturgical Calendar (another man-made device). Let’s move forward towards freedom in Christ, not backwards into religiosity.