Homily for the Easter Vigil 2010

April 5, 2010

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth … and God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw how good the light was.” I wonder what it would have been like to stand at that moment in the Genesis story and observe the creation of light. Would it have been a momentary flash in which suddenly one was completely surrounded by light or would it have been something a lot more gradual, standing there in complete darkness above the abyss and the formless wasteland, and perhaps seeing that first indication of light way off in the distance and seeing it come closer and closer until finally, there it was, all around, filling the void with its energy? Either one works for me. In each case, God makes something out of nothing, light where before there was only darkness. As the story of creation continues to unfold, we see God creating the sky and the earth and stars and the moon. We see him creating all life: plants, animals, and finally man and woman, all created out of nothing. Where there was nothing, God creates something. Where there was emptiness, God brings fullness. Where there was darkness, God brings light. Where there was no existence, God’s own breath brings forth life.

Many centuries later when the created beauty of man and woman was broken by sin, when death and darkness had entered the world, God created anew with a light of Jesus Christ as we hear in The Gospel of John: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” When the Virgin Mary said to the angel Gabriel, “Let it be done to me as according to your word,” Christ, the new Adam was born through her womb. Where God and man had become estranged, we were now reconciled in the person of Jesus Christ, the “Light of the World.” Once again, God said, let there be light and so it was.

Yet, we also know that this light was destined to fall into the darkness of death. At yesterday’s Good Friday service, we listened to the story of that death and we venerated the Cross, the instrument of that death. Christ’s death on the cross was not a partial death or a pseudo death in which he was dead but not quite. He died as we die. His bodily existence ended as does ours. In his humanity, Christ suffered not only the pain of the Cross, but also the same fear and uncertainty that we experience when we face death. Can you imagine what it must have been like to die and then to somehow rise again. Was it like a blinding flash of existence when suddenly Jesus was completely aware once more that he was alive or was it something that happened gradually, like a light coming from distance as he became more and more conscious that he was alive once more. One can never know yet the result is the same. Where there was darkness, there was now light. Where there was death, there was now life. God created anew once again.

This evening, we gathered here in this church to recall that moment when Christ rose from the dead. Many of us gathered outside to witness the blessing of the Easter fire and the lighting of the Easter candle. Many remained inside in the darkened gloom of the church. Suddenly, the darkness was pierced by the light of the Easter candle and the silence broken with the cry of “Christ our light” and the response of “thanks be to God.” The light began its journey down the main aisle of the church while its essence spread as candle after candle was lit. Once again, we heard, “Christ our light” and sang out once more, “Thanks be to God.” Finally, with a third cry and response, the light of Christ was enthroned at the altar and the Easter Exutlet was sung, “Rejoice heavenly powers, sing choirs of angels, exult all creation around God’s throne! Jesus Christ our king is risen! Sound the trumpet of salvation!” The light of Christ is victorious over the darkness of sin and death and so we rejoice this night.

Christ’s victory was not won for him alone. It is won for all of God’s creation. For those of us who choose to bear the name of Christian, the new creation of Christ, the new Adam, was offered to us as well as sons and daughters through baptism. The words of St. Paul which we heard tonight remind us “that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death and if we were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so too, as Christ was raised from the dead, we might live in newness of life.” We are a new creation, infused with the light of Christ, blessed with the grace of the Holy Spirit. Christ told his disciples as he tells us “you are the light of the world. Do not hide your light under a bushel basket, but let it shine forth for all to see.” As bearers of this new creation in Christ, we are the light that moves into a world that is both broken and redeemed, seeking to draw others closer to the light of Christ as well. Christ’s victory is our victory. Christ’s light is our light. We are a new Adam, we are a new Eve. Tonight, in this place, we commemorate and embrace the reality of life over death and we say, “Christ our light – thanks be to God.”