Happy Resurrection Sunday!

…but in some ways it doesn’t feel very happy, does it? This year there’s no Sunrise service, singing praise to our Savior as the first rays of light break over the mountain-tops. There’s no gathering of hundreds of believers declaring in one voice that our Savior is risen. There’s no Easter lunches, talking and laughing together, adults watching children’s unbridled joy with quiet smiles. Instead there are overflowing hospitals, stay at home orders, and so much fear… This isn’t what we hoped for. This isn’t what we planned.

We do what we can…drive-in Easter services, Zoom meetings with family, celebrating in our homes. But it’s not the same. And there’s such an aching to miss spending this day with other believers, with our family. This is a day of joy, of celebration, of praise…not sorrow. And yet we’re here, with fragile smiles and empty chairs. And for many it seems almost impossible to have joy this day: instead there’s fear, there’s grief, there’s loneliness, there’s an aching certainty that this isn’t what Easter is meant to be. This isn’t what we planned.

How many people have said that over the centuries? How many people have collapsed with broken hearts, crying “this isn’t what we planned”? It feels like everything is collapsing all around you…or maybe you’re numb, or maybe you smile as you go through the day but somewhere in your heart there’s a whisper that something’s missing. How many people have lived through uncertain times? How many people have wept for lack of hope?

I don’t have an answer to bring back the joy. I don’t have words that will take away the fear, the sorrow, the loneliness. A part of me is crying too.

But there is hope. There is light. And even though this year we cannot gather, we still remember the day so many centuries ago when another group wept “this isn’t what we planned.” We remember that their sorrow turned to unspeakable joy. More than everything, we remember Jesus’s victory over death.

We remember that when He came to Jerusalem, He didn’t say “this isn’t what I planned.” Instead, He said “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour” (John 12:27). As He walked with His disciples to the garden of Gethsemane, He didn’t wonder what the next day would hold. Instead He told His disciples “Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy”  (John 16:20). When He was beaten, mocked, shamed, hung on a cross… as He struggled for every breath, He wasn’t taken by surprise. He didn’t say “How could this happen?” And three days later, when they found His tomb empty, when the disciples were gathered in fear with the doors locked, He appeared. He didn’t ask what they were doing, He didn’t begin by explaining why everything had happened…instead, He said “Peace be with you!” (John 20:19).

Our hope doesn’t fade when our plans go awry. Our joy doesn’t disappear when the days are uncertain. Our peace doesn’t flee when chaos seems to reign around us. Because our hope is in the One who defeated death, our joy is in an empty tomb…and He gives us His unfathomable peace even when fear surrounds us. Though this day is not what we expected, not what we wanted…we can still have peace. Our reason for gathering on this day remains even when we stay in our homes. Our reason for singing lives still, and He hears the praise we offer Him even when our voices are scattered in a thousand different places. Through all the uncertainty, through all the sorrow, we can still declare with certainty and wonder “He is risen!”