I have a confession to make. I did not get up to go sing at the graveyard at sunrise, like I intended. There was a group of friends who did, and judging by Facebook, it was glorious. But I did not. Fortunately, this provides and apt metaphor and appeals to an overused pun.
Without doubt, the Resurrection was the most glorious, triumphant, unexpected victory in all of our history. It was the crowning moment of our Lord, when he rose from death, having defeated it. If this story were written by Tolkien or Robert Jordan, and probably if it were written by you or me, it would feature some sort of loud acclamation, armies cheering, flowers being thrown, and a large feast being planned. Also, probably a wedding, if the story is any good. Keep that in mind. We’ll come back to it.
But that is exactly what did not happen. The Bible actually doesn’t tell us when Christ rose from the dead. We are told that it happened, we are given a few details, but no one was there to see it. In fact, the stone had been rolled away and the guards snoozing for some time before the ladies who were blessed to be the first witnesses came along and started witnessing.
The most important event in the world, without which our faith is empty, happened quietly, off-screen. We only noticed afterwards. It was, and here comes the overused pun, a dawning. The Son rose, and gradually people began to notice. First the Mary’s, then a few of the Apostles, and so on until the light of this Gospel began to spread throughout the earth.
When we today get up for sunrise services, we are indulging in an opportunity the original witnesses of the resurrection did not have. We are, symbolically, celebrating the defeat of death as it happened. It is a glorious symbol, and brings the victory home.
But neither for the world, nor for most people, was that event so strong and sudden. In a moment, there was a shift from death to life, but that beginning was hidden away in a tomb. We are not at once sanctified and sinless. No, by virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection, the Lord counts us so, but we must grow into that counting. The light of the Gospel changes everything, but it takes time for its full effect to work its way out. The Son has risen, but the day has only just begun. Rejoice, for there will not be another night.