Perhaps the single most constant element of my childhood was Sunday morning church – and holidays provided no exception. Since Easter is always on Sunday, we knew that’s where we would be. To be sure, there were other Easter traditions. We usually got a new church outfit and some Easter candy and even had an egg hunt or two (after Dad decided that the occasional pagan celebration wouldn’t cause us any real harm). But we were always at church. And church on Easter generally meant that we could count on singing several of a pretty small assortment of Easter songs. One was “the Gravy Song” – you may know it as “Christ Arose,” but to little southern boys it sure sounded like we were singing “up from the gravy arose…” Another was the Gaither classic, “Because He Lives” and it is this song that will always stand out in my mind and have a special place in my heart.
The first verse is a succinct summary of Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection and the chorus goes like this:
Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives, all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living,
Just because He lives!
Though I’m certain that I had heard the song before, I remember the first time that I really heard this song and understood its significance. It was about 10 days shy of my 10th birthday and we sang this song at my Grandfather’s funeral. Being so young, I had never thought that much about life or what gave it value. The future had never seemed daunting and fear was mostly reserved for imaginary dangers. But that day, maybe for the first time, I felt the pain of loss. Perhaps more significantly, I saw the pain of loss in people that I cared about. I saw the tears and grief of my family.
But I also saw their hope and nowhere was it more clearly evident than when we joined our voices and belted out that song. I remember feeling a sense of exhilaration. It was as if we were taunting death with this song of hope in Christ. I actually remember being so filled with joy during the singing of that song that I felt guilty and confessed to my dad later. I thought that it must be wrong to feel that happy during a funeral.
As the years have passed, I’ve often relived that moment in my mind, particularly on Easter or any other time I hear that song. As I have reflected on that moment I’ve come to understand that what I experienced that day is exactly what Easter is really about. Easter is not just a celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus. It is a celebration of the life and hope He gives because He is alive. It is a celebration of release from bondage and fear. It is a celebration of the fact that in the midst of uncertainty I know who holds the future.
As you go through your normal Easter routine, I invite you to consider whether or not the life of Christ has ever truly impacted your own. If not, there is no better time than the present to place your faith in Him. If you’ve already done so, I challenge you to set aside some time just to reflect on some of the ways His life gives you hope.