26 Mar 2016
This is the night . . . when we celebrate destruction. Yes, Christ is risen from the dead—Glory to God in the highest, and Alleluia for that! And we’ll be celebrating that in the daytime tomorrow and for the next fifty days. But tonight . . . in the night of the great Vigil of Easter, we celebrate destruction. We celebrate the death of Death—most especially, the ways of Death.
Even when Jesus was surrounded by darkness and gloom and death, he didn’t give in. Death was there in the agony of the Garden and in the betrayal of Judas and his closest disciples. Death was there in the mocking and beating and crowning with thorns. Death was there on the Cross as he was spat upon; as he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” Death was all around him. It even tried to claim his body there in the tomb.
But Death and the ways of Death were defeated. Darkness has been overcome by Christ. And so we gather here, at the great Vigil of Easter; we gather with darkness all around us, yet we are unafraid because the Light of Christ has split open the night and sent the darkness and the gloom of Death running away.
How does the Christmas carol go?: Dear Savior haste/ Come, come to earth/ Dispel the night and show your face/ And bid us hail the dawn of grace/ O come, divine Messiah!/ The world in silence waits the day/ When hope shall sing its triumph/ And sadness flee away.” Well, tonight is “the day” when the night is dispelled and sadness flees away. Tonight is the “the day” when Death has died. Alleluia and Glory to God in the highest for that!
And not only tonight, but every time, and every place, and every circumstance when the Spirit of Death is pestering us. With the Name of Jesus on our lips, and the Light of Truth and Love in our hearts, the Spirit of Death has no power over us. That’s what we celebrate tonight—the destruction of the power of Death by the Light of Life.
The Spirit of Death loves to take away our joy and happiness, our hope and love, our faith. The Spirit of Death loves to drain the life out of us.
You know, if someone tries to run us down or criticizes us unfairly or unjustly—when Death is trying to shame us and make us inferior, what a blessed thing it is to be able to say: “Get behind me Satan! For I am a child of the Light!” Or even when physical death is around us, or maybe when life gets to be challenging—and the Spirit of Death is trying to make us afraid, or doubtful, or despairing, what a great gift it is to be able to say: “Come Lord Jesus, the Light of my life, and chase away the pesky gloom of Death.”
And the darkness of Death can be pesky. Doubt, fear, sadness, jealousy, judgmentalism and all those “ways of Death” can really be pesky . . . like a bunch of mosquitoes that just won’t leave you alone. But the Light of Christ is like a big fly swatter that squashes ‘em and sends ‘em flying away.
Yes, tonight we celebrate destruction! We celebrate the demise of Death. And with all the angels and saints of heaven, we sing and laugh and immerse ourselves in the Life and Light of God. And if you start to think that you don’t have reason to be happy tonight, or that Christ isn’t going to be your Light, you can chase away that little demon of doubt by remembering that you are a baptized child of God.
By faith and baptism, the Light of Christ is already in you. You just have to uncover it! And you do that by saying: “I don’t want death to have any more power over me. I don’t want to live in the darkness. Christ, be my Light! Jesus, destroy the ways of Death in me; help me to live and to love! Christ, be my Light!"
And no prayer is more loathsome to the Spirit of Death, than the simple prayer of a child of God living in the Light of Christ. What a joy it is tonight—to be bathed in the Light of Christ, and to realize again that Death . . . has been destroyed!