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Easter Sunday, March 31 - Resplendent Joy!

Revelation 19:6

Hallelujah!

The Master reigns, our God, the Sovereign-Strong!

Let us celebrate, let us rejoice,

Let us give him the glory!

Eugene Peterson “The Message” 2003


And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude,

And as the voice of many waters,

And as the voice of mighty thundering’s saying, “Alleluia’:

For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.

King James Bible


The Incarnation of Jesus at Christmas begins the new story. Easter is the end of the first story. Neither can be real, tangible or believable without the other.


It always confounds me how ‘hitched” Western Christianity and cultures are wed and glued to the singing of Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” at Advent and Christmastime. Often this chorus is tagged to the First portion of MESSIAH at Christmastime when in stark reality, it is composed for the closing second portion of MESSIAH as the conclusion to the Easter section of MESSIAH.


We as a culture are guilty of anticipatory anxieties. While the ‘King’ is arriving in the incarnation; his life, work and gospel to the world has yet to unfold as he is only an infant in a barn.


Hallelujah (Hebrew spelling) and Alleluia are synonymous with each other and have proffered generations for inexpressible Praise to God. This praise in its mature and ripe form takes us completely from our selves/self-absorbed selfishness and turns all glory and praise to the Holy One! We do not have to go very back into the Psalter to find hundreds of Hallelujahs and Alleluias as expressions of supreme, deep, deep hard work resplendent joy. Both translate “Praise the Lord!”


Joy is not a state of elation, glee, and euphoria nor is it astro-projectionism (out of body experiences), pure joy is not an emotion. It is, however, very hard work far from happiness. Joy has the mysterious capacity to be felt alongside sorrow and even in the midst of suffering. This is because joy is what we feel deep in our bones when we realize and feel connected to others- and to what is genuinely good, beautiful, and meaningful- which is possible even in pain.


Happiness is generally the effect of evaluating our circumstances, then evaluating our lives, and hence being satisfied with our lives. Real JOY does not depend on good circumstances or happiness.


This discipline of achieved/gut wrenching joy became very real to me in Easter of 1985. My mother at age 62 died on Holy Monday after years of fighting aggressive cancers. I played the organ for her funeral in our home church in upstate NY on Maundy Thursday, helped my father clean out her belongings on Good Friday and flew back to Virginia on Holy Saturday where I was to play the organ and lead a brass quintet, direct the multiple choirs and be totally “ON” for four Easter Day services. My alleluias (Hallelujahs) were thin, faint and not very present that Easter. Frankly, I was exhausted physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. Yet as a full-time church musician, Easter had to go on for hundreds of people that Easter Day. Easter Joy was thousands of miles from my heart and radar screen. I was writhing in grief and profound sadness. How could I be a sturdy presence and fine musician/church leader when I had nothing to produce or offer? That year even being present, as much as I ached to be, was nonexistent.


As I have grown these 28 years since Easter 1985, JOY for me has matured and turned into an inexpressible action for me; RESPLENDENT JOY! This JOY has nothing to do with spring flowers, fabulous hymns, pretty clothes and a big dinner with an Easter egg hunt. Forget the chocolate bunnies! Easter means nothing to me without the Incarnation. The Holy One coming among us. The disciples and the Mary’s were soul torn and gut wrenched over the death of their beloved Jesus. He was gone and absent from Good Friday to Easter morning. Dead! No Jesus. No Comfort of gospel, just profound silence. Golgotha was a storm polluted mountain with fear, a rock filled and dreadful place. No green life. Absolutely devoid of flowers and any form of life. The hewn tomb was wet, damp and very cold. In this absence of Jesus and now an absent cold tomb, somehow miraculously JOY occurred. Resplendent hard work JOY! Life for humanity would never be the same going forward.


For me, the anticipatory anxiety of the “Hallelujah Chorus” at Christmas is only exacerbated by our insatiable desire to ‘pretty up Easter’ and forget the pain and suffering of our Lord Jesus Christ, the world in which we live and the sufferings of humanity all around us.


“And what he brings to us in His hurt hands is life on life for you and me!” Do your hands hurt from bringing pure hard work JOY to others? Does setting your Easter Dinner table consume more energy and attention than falling on your knees with a grateful heart and pure, hard work RESPLENDENT JOY?


Perhaps just this EASTER you will find the hurt hands, loving, risen Lord Jesus standing at the altars of your lives inviting you to come to him. Perhaps this EASTER The Holy One will renew your redemption, salvation and soul refreshed living. Perhaps you will spiritually, emotionally, and physically rise to a new level of life riddled and consumed with Hallelujahs. Pure, unadulterated RESPLENDENT JOY!


Then now we can sing with RESPLENDENT JOY “Hallelujah! For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth and His kingdom shall reign for ever and ever!!!!!” on the right day, in the right place and at the right time. Now we can live in that forever kingdom- ALLELUIA! AMEN!


-David-Charles Campbell

 

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