Today we are celebrating the Resurrection of our Lord.

Easter is one of my favorite days.  Over the years, I have celebrated in many different ways.  I have attended sunrise services by the lake, early worship surrounded by a garden of fresh lilies, liturgical services full of old hymns and scripted prayers, charismatic services with joyful song and dance, and contemporary services.  I have been blessed and my heart has been moved by all of them.

No matter how each church chooses to honor this day, there is no question that it’s the single most important day in our entire year.  Of course we understand that Jesus suffering and death on the cross on Good Friday meant atonement for our sins.  But the truth is, that death would be meaningless without the joy of the Resurrection.

If Jesus had stayed dead, in the tomb, then we would be left with no more than another martyr, another person who sacrificed his own life for the sake of a cause.  Perhaps in some way, Jesus would have been remembered.  He might have been considered a mystic, or a strange kind of pacifist, or merely a religious scholar.  People might have been able to dismiss him as a crank who took his odd political views a bit too far.  He might have served as some kind of example of how not to fight against an oppressive government.  His disciples might have faded quietly into the scenery, disheartened and reluctant to trust again.

Whatever people would have thought of Jesus, whatever else might have happened, most people’s lives would have gone on unchanged.  But because of the empty tomb, the world is forever a different place.  Because of the empty tomb, faith forever has a different meaning.  Because of the empty tomb, we are forever different people.

By his suffering and death, Jesus atoned for our sins; with his Resurrection, he conquered death itself.  The Resurrection reminds us that death gives way to new life; grief gives way to joy; heartache gives way to healing.  Easter is not a time for solemn reflection or sadness.  It is a time abundant rejoicing, overflowing gladness, and reverent awe.

However you are celebrating today, my prayer for you is that this day will be filled with abundant life and joy.