Not only were the women's hopes of liberation shattered, but their beloved Jesus was dead. They did not wait until sunrise, but approached the tomb in the early pre-dawn hours. Imagine their joy and hope springing to life with the rising sun, as they found the tomb empty, the stone rolled away, and the burial clothes left behind!
It is with this same joy and hope that millions of Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead with a worship service at sunrise each Easter.
Every year, however, we hear the murmurings of a vocal few who get their noses out of joint at the very idea of enjoying any little bit of creation. Because ancient Pagans worshiped a sun god, they say, Christians should have nothing to do with sunrise services. How about we shed a little light on this subject?
The Jewish Bible called the coming Messiah, The Sun of Righteousness (yes, s-u-n) in Malachi 4:2. "But to you who fear My name, The Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings. . ."
The day that Jesus was crucified, there was a vernal equinox, indicating the first day of Spring. On that day, in twenty-eight year cycles, Jews honored the Creator with a worship service at sunrise. This is still the practice among some Jews today.
According to some historians, including Dr. Joseph F. Kelly of John Carroll University, early Christians believed that Jesus was both conceived and died on the vernal equinox, and therefore born during Hanukkah- the Jewish Festival of Light. That is how they came up with the date of December 25th as the date of His birth.
In addition, Dr. Kelly says that the ancient Pagan festival Saturnalia--which promoted worship of the sun god Mithra--began as a direct counter to early Christian celebrations of Jesus as the Sun of Righteousness.
Jesus came as a light into the world, but he was not understood (John 1:5). During the crucifixion, the sun went dark, for a period of three hours, as mankind chose darkness, rather than light (Mark 15:33, John 3:19).
Jesus said, "I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness." (John 12:46).
This Easter, may you choose to walk in light, with The Sun of Righteousness, and rejoice at the empty tomb, rather than dwell in the darkness with those who do not understand.
Copyright 2011, Kathryn A. Frazier.
Kathryn lives with her husband and children in Tampa, Florida. It's hot there. And swampy. With gators. She's really brave. PreciousHolidays@yahoo.com