Easter is my favorite holiday. Oh sure, the holiday season between October 31st and January 6th is my favorite time of year but Easter reigns supreme as my favorite holiday. No, it's not just because it means a new hat.
I do very much enjoy the beautiful and colorful Easter dresses, the seersucker suits, and the chocolate. It's a joy to see the Easter Lilies being dedicated at church. The palpable excitement of children as they ready themselves for an Easter egg hunt is invigorating.
But it is the meaning and the music of Easter that I love most.
Growing up, I would visit my grandparents' church on Easter Sunday. Never was there a better day for a life-long hymn lover like myself to visit First Baptist Church.
If we were lucky, Dr. Alan Cox would play a phenomenally rousing rendition of "Because He Lives" on the hand bells and a older bass/baritone soloist would sing "The Old Rugged Cross" for The Special (Baptists, y'all know what I'm talking about).
However, when Dr. Jerry Payne on saxophone, Dr. Cox on trumpet, and someone playing trombone would stand at three points in the sanctuary and play "Were You There" antiphonally, that was the highlight of the Easter service for me.
Nothing epitomizes the three days of events more in my mind than that hymn, "Were You There."
The words are incredibly simple as is the tune; yet, the weightiness of what happen at Calvary is felt in every word and with every note.
Vs. 1 Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Yes, I was. It was because of a sinner like me that the God who spoke stars into existence humbled himself to become a baby, live among His creation, and have to be unjustly tried and sentenced to death on a cross.
John 3:16 - "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
Luke 22:19 - "And He took the bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, "This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me."
Vs. 2 Were you there when they nailed Him to the tree?
Yes, I was...and still am. Each time I doubt His promises, fear for the future, or think I know what's best for me, I drive those spikes into His hands and feet.
Romans 8:28 - "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."
Psalm 23:4 - "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me."
Vs. 3 Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb?
Yes, I was. All my shame, guilt, and inadequacies were buried with Christ.
John 10:10 - "The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they may have it more abundantly."
1 Peter 5:7 - "Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you."
Vs. 4 Were you there when He rose up from the dead?
Yes, I was. It was in that moment that death lost its sting and that He gave me the gift of a choice to accept everlasting life with Him.
John 14:3 - "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also."
Philippians 3:7-11 - "But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead."
Chorus Sometimes, it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
The Creator of every living thing thought of us when He put His plan in motion to sacrifice His only begotten son so that we might have the choice to live with Him in paradise for eternity. He thought of all of us. We are all sinful and have equal opportunity to repent and turn away from those sins.
The Almighty God that set the universe in motion endured unthinkable torture, ridicule, and pain for you. The only truly innocent person to ever walk the earth was falsely accused, convicted as guilty, and put to death in the most gruesome and shameful way for you.
The Prince of Peace suffered, died, and was buried for me - a short, slow-driving, cookie monster with an astigmatism. 2000 years ago while in unfathomable pain, God Almighty was thinking of little ol' me.
How can I sing those words and not physically feel the stirring in my soul?
Not sometimes, but all the time, it causes me to tremble.