"This Is OUR Night"
(Easter Vigil Readings)
People hold vigils on notable nights for many and various reasons. A wife may await her husband’s return from an overseas battle field. The night before he returns she spends in anxious prayer and eager anticipation. A son or daughter may hold vigil at the bedside of their dying parent. After all, that loved one’s departure should not go unnoticed by those who are living. A parent may keep vigil at the bedside of a feverish and restless child. As that parent soothes the hot brow of her child with a cold compress, she also prays to God for health. Such needs just demand that we keep watch.
So tonight, our Lord calls us to watch with Him just one little hour. You see, this is our night to watch and wait with quiet yet excited anticipation. That eternal day of resurrection light is coming! Our deliverance from death’s darkness is fast approaching. Just as our eyes rejoice at the splendor of the lighted candles, so our hearts and minds rejoice at the new light of the life to come. And the vigil this night gives new meaning to all those other vigils of many and various times. Nothing else can compare to this vigil on this our night.
This is our night of creation. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17). The burning flame outside pierces yesterday's darkness and takes us back to that first day when God said, “Let there be light” (Gen. 1:3). Just as He then ordered all things—sky, sea, and dry land—He now orders our lives to look to Him for all good things. We get to receive, appreciate and benefit from sun, moon, and stars, fruit trees and veggie gardens, birds and fish, critters and beasts. And, most of all, we rejoice in being restored to His image, the image of God Himself, especially rejoicing in our maleness or femaleness, whichever our Creator God has given each of us for our joy.
This is our night of coming out of the great flood. God once judged humanity’s wickedness by a deluge of water, but now He has fully and finally judged our sin and conquered our death through the death of His Son Jesus on a tree. And those eight persons who “were brought safely through water” show us God’s way of life. “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 3:20-21).
This is our night of coming out of bondage in the Egypt of our sinful thoughts, words, and deeds. The blood of Jesus, the sinless Lamb of God, covers the lintels of our hearts, minds, and consciences, and eternal death now passes over us. We have been brought through the sea of Baptism and are delivered from the pursuing armies of the evil one. So we sing to the LORD, “for He has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider He has thrown into the sea” (Ex. 15:1).
This is our night when salvation is offered freely to all. With God’s people of all times and all places we get to delight in the rich food of God’s resurrection life—the life-giving Body and Blood of our risen Lord Jesus. “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” (1 Cor. 10:16). Our God has compassion and abundantly pardons. His Word refreshes and waters and brings forth joy at this Easter feast.
This is our night when our risen Lord cleanses us, gives us a new heart beating with His life, and puts a new spirit of faith, hope, and love in us. He has put us back together, bone to bone. He has restored our sinews and covered us with new skin and breathed new life into us who were dead in trespasses and sins. “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Gal. 3:27). And now, when He raises you from your graves, He will put His Holy Spirit within you, and you will live…with Him…with your brothers and sisters in Christ…for all eternity.
This is our night of dancing in the fiery furnace. We still live in a fallen, broken world—where Christians are edged out of the public square and religious liberty is under assault, where Christians are slaughtered while celebrating these holy days. But while we do still live here, the One Man who has the appearance “like a son of the gods” (Dan. 3:25)—the One Man who truly is the Son of God—joins us in the midst of the fire. And we are not hurt, we are not singed, no matter what the powers and principalities may say or do to us. “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Absolutely nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:37, 39).
So, dear catechumens newly confirmed, this is your night. Don’t wander from it, and certainly don’t ever fall away from your risen Lord. And that means faithfully hearing His Word and receiving His Body and Blood in His house. That means making Jesus and His gifts more than just a priority; it means making Him, His Word, His Sacraments, being at His house THE priority for all your life. And for the rest of us, let’s all help them do that, for the rest of their lives. And let's do that ourselves, for the rest of our lives.
This is OUR night—“the night when all who believe in Christ are delivered from bondage to sin and are restored to life and immortality.” Amen.