Start at the End

“But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.” Reading that passage from today’s Epistle lessons makes me want to say that traditional call and response we say every Easter, “Christ is Risen. He is risen indeed, Alleluia!” Say it with me, “Christ is Risen. He is risen indeed, Alleluia!” Happy Easter, everybody!

But I’m confused, it was snowing outside. My family just went to our annual community Christmas tree lighting ceremony Friday night, choirs sang traditional Christmas carols that filled the dark night. My wife and I started getting together our Christmas shopping lists and I’ve been busy planning our Advent devotional book and Advent services for December. This is decidedly not Easter, I couldn’t handle planning Easter and Christmas all at the same time!

But why then are we looking at a very typical Easter Sunday passage, celebrating the fact that Jesus Christ was bodily raised from the dead and because he was raised we will be raised as well. This doesn’t seem like a very “Christmasy” message. Though maybe it is. As Christians, we look at the Christmas season in an odd seeming way; we start at the end so we can understand the beginning and all that comes thereafter.

We start with the wooden cross that brings redemption for our sins before we look at the wooden manger.

We talk about the Resurrection from the dead on Easter Sunday before we talk about the Birth on Christmas morning.

We talk about the judgment and victory over sin and death on the last day before we see the child that made all of that possible.

We start at the end so we can understand the beginning and all that comes therafter. When Jesus Christ was bodily, historically raised from the dead by the glory of the Father it vindicated and clarified everything that had occurred and was done before:

  • The virgin birth prophesied through the ages from the prophet Isaiah: “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel,” God with us. The whole Christmas story, the Wise men, the Shepherds, the Angels singing on high.
  • The heavens were opened and the voice of the Father spoke, “this is my son, with whom I am well pleased, listen to him!” The Holy Spirit descended upon him like a dove in the Jordan River at his baptism.
  • The man Jesus who turned the water into wine and spoke with the authority that only comes from God. “And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching,for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.” (Matthew 7)
  • He performed many miracles that went against the ordinary way of things to show what the kingdom of heaven is like. “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.” (Matthew 11)
  • Even nature itself obeyed his voice. And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?” (Matthew 8)
  • The dead were raised. “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.”  The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” (John 11)
  • He shone in his glory from eternity on the mount of transfiguration, “his face shining as the sun, and his garments became white as the light” (Matthew 17)
  • He instituted the Lord’s Supper, fulfilling the hope of the unblemished lamb that would save his people from their sins. “Take, Eat this is my Body, Take, drink this is my blood, for the forgiveness of sins.”
  • He suffered and died a martyr’s death, sacrificed upon a Roman cross, “the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” (Luke 24)

But all of that, every single miraculous word, action, every single moment; none of it would mean anything at all for us today. Jesus was not the first man named Jesus nor was he the last. We would not be here, we would not be worshipping together, we would not be a church family, we probably wouldn’t even know many of the people sitting here today and we would certainly not know Jesus’ name, let alone what he did, it would all be lost to the dust of history, forever away from us, not even a footnote in the history books. A martyr among an uncountable number of martyrs brutally murdered upon Roman crosses, no more. None of this would matter if Jesus were not raised from the dead.

1 Corinthians 15:13-18 “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.  And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.  We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised.  And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.  Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.  If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”

Nothing would matter and we would still be lost in our sins. There would be no forgiveness, no meaning for today, and no hope for tomorrow, no life eternal. Absolutely, without no doubt in my mind, there would never have been never would be Christmas , Christmas would not exist. Get your head around that one! Think of how many Christmas specials come around every year trying to save Christmas! If Jesus was not raised from the dead, there would be no Christmas in need of saving! No trees, no lights, no stars, no carols, no presents (sorry kids), no Santa Claus, no Elf on the Shelf, no secular holiday to complain about and no nativity on the lawns for other people to complain about. All we would be left with is a bleak midwinter, no reason to celebrate in the snow, if Jesus was not raised from the dead. No Easter equals No Christmas.

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” Happy Easter! “Christ is Risen. He is risen indeed, Alleluia!” Easter shows us that Jesus Christ is Lord and gives meaning to every season in the church that celebrates His life.

Jesus Christ is Lord of the Season of Advent preparing to the meet the newborn king.

Jesus is Lord of the Season of Christmas and gives us a reason for the season.

Jesus Christ is Lord of the Season of Epiphany as King Jesus is revealed.

Jesus Christ is Lord of the Season of Lent and gives meaning and hope in suffering.

Jesus Christ is Lord of the Season of Easter his victory and our victory from the grave.

Jesus Christ is Lord of the Season of Pentecost the long summer season of the church and the long season of our Christian life here on Earth.

Because of His resurrection, Christ is King of every season of the church year and in that good confession of faith, by the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we can confess and believe that Jesus is Lord of my life and King of every Season that we are given to live. Because we start at the end, we already know that Jesus Christ has won the victory, for all of creation and for you and me. Because Jesus is Lord and King of all and right now has the victory that we are looking forward too, we can say and believe with confidence that Jesus is Lord of my whole life, no matter what that life brings.

In the spring seasons when life and activity is blossoming and budding.

In the summer seasons of activity and play that feel like they could go on forever.

In the fall seasons of maturity and wisdom, of deep roots and strength.

In the winter seasons that bring all things to a close but looks forward to the hope of Spring and Easter to come.

Because Jesus is Lord we get to live as Easter people during every season, even when the snow is flying and the carols are playing and the lights are hung, we have every good reason to celebrate and say, “Christ is Risen, He is Risen indeed, Alleluia. Happy Easter!”

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