Sunday, April 6, 2008
Easter, Baptism and the Pascal Light
The new light of Easter enters slowly into the darkened sanctuary. "The light of Christ," the deacon chants with ever increasing intensity. Little by little the darkness is dispelled. Life has broken in on the shadow of death. This light will remain on the altar for the 50 days of His post-resurrection work, a testimony to the continued victory of life over death. Yet with the arrival of Pentecost the light does not disappear. Now its place is by the font, the water of life, where we die to the death-dealing power of sin and rise to newness of life in Christ. It will move on only one other occasion during this coming year. Each time the earthly remains of a child of God sit in state before the altar, the light will stand prominently at the head, even as the casket is draped in its pall, symbolic of the robe of righteousness that clothed the child in Baptism. The light scatters the darkness of death once more, forbidding a grief devoid of hope. We have died to sin. We have arisen to a new life in Christ. In Him we die no more.
And as this light sits quietly upon the altar each Lord's Day, it stands in testimony of the daily death and resurrection of each believer. For here, again before the altar in God's House, we pour out our confession, and pray for the resurrection new life that forgiveness brings to our sinful souls. The darkness of sin casts its long shadow over our lives, frustrating us at every turn, complicating our families and marriages and work. We know the damage it has done. We sense the death within. Yet we cannot give up hope. The holy absolution from God's servant cuts through the guilt and announces the victory of the one in whose stead he stands. I am not a forsaken sinner given to death and hell. I am a forgiven child of God, washed in Christ through the power of the Spirit, raised to a new and better life, empowered now to do what is impossible, save by the strength of God Himself.
The light has come and the darkness has neither overcome it, nor does it comprehend it. Praise be to the Light of Life!