Summary: An Easter Sunrise Service meditation on Christ as the light of our lives.
Have you ever experienced total darkness? I’m not talking about our “modern darkness,” which means that the light is coming from something other than the sun. I’m talking about complete blackness. Once, when I was in elementary school, I spent the night in a cave with my Girl Scout Troop. We did lots of fun stuff that night, but one of the most memorable experiences was turning out our flashlights in the deep, dark recesses of the cave. That was complete darkness. I could sense my eyes trying to adjust and find light by which to make my surroundings visible, but it was impossible; there was no light. Part of the reason this experience was so memorable was because it was a bit scary. I knew my eyes were working, and yet I could see nothing; not even the faintest glimmer of light.
The people of Jesus’ day experienced darkness in a way that we do not. They did not have the modern conveniences that you and I have; no electric lamps, street lights, spot lights, or bright stadium lighting. They used oil lamps in their homes and businesses, which produced meager light at best. In fact, so lacking were the lighting options of Jesus’ day (even up to the invention of electricity less than a century ago), that people’s schedules revolved around the rising and setting of the sun. People were up with the sun in the morning, and often when night fell they would go straight to bed. And as I discovered that night in the cave, when people are drowned in darkness, they long for the light. In fact, people in Jesus’ day so valued light that they had special celebrations centered around light.
As a part of the Feast of Tabernacles, the Jews celebrated a ceremony called “The Illumination of the Temple.” It took place in the court of the women. The court was very dark, surrounded by deep galleries; in the center stood four great candelabras. When darkness descended, each of the candelabras were lit, which in turn lit up the courtyard. During the night, the priest and the people danced and sang songs of joy for the light in the midst of darkness. It is with this understanding that John introduces us to Jesus, and it is in this context that Jesus later says, “I am the light of the world.” In essence, John’s message says to us, “The light of this world can only brighten up this courtyard, but Jesus brings light to the whole world.” And that is what we celebrate on Easter morning, the light of the world dawning in our midst; that is what we so keenly recognize as we gather for worship at the hour of the Easter sunrise.
Easter Sunday is the day we remember Christ’s resurrection, the dawning of the light of life that came through Jesus’ life, ministry, death, and ultimately, his resurrection. As we watch the sunrise on Easter morning and light the whole world, we are reminded of Jesus, who is the light of the world. And more than just the sun that rises in the morning, filling the earth with light, Jesus is also the Son that rises in our lives, dispelling the darkness that so often overshadows us. We’ve all experienced such darkness and shadows; the darkness of fear, depression, or addiction; the darkness of unemployment or financial difficulty; the darkness of broken relationships or death. And yet with the hope of the risen Christ dawning in our hearts, the light of life begins to dispel such darkness. All of these issues somehow look different when held to the light of Christ, and we gain new perspective in the eternal hope that all shall be well and that nothing is too great for God in Christ Jesus to overcome!
When light shines, darkness is no more. This is a simple fact of physics. And when the light of Jesus Christ shines in the world, goodness begins to overtake evil. “In all this amazing world is there a more amazing thing that the invincibility of goodness? Everything seems against it, yet it refuses to be killed…The night falls and grows ever blacker; and then comes the dawn.” And how is this done? Because this fight is not our fight, but God’s; and God is in it with us. No matter what darknesses might overshadow our lives – depression, addiction, fear, God is with us; forever. And that is the promise of the resurrection! On that first Christmas day, God came to be with us; and on that first Easter day, God showed us that he will be with us forever (if we will stick with Christ); through thick and thin, no matter what. And the great promise of the resurrection is that God in Christ Jesus has won; evil has been defeated and goodness cannot be conquered, and must win in the end. Even death does not have the final word!