The Forgotten Festival: Ascension Day
There are no decorated evergreens, no greeting cards, no gifts, no poinsettias or lilies, no colored eggs, no chocolate bunnies, and no responsive salutation. There’s just a Thursday with an extra name: Ascension– forty days after Easter Sunday, Jesus ascended into heaven, leaving his disciples to do the work of his church on earth.
It’s not just the world that has ignored the festival. The church seems to have lost interest as well. Most congregations have elected to forgo a worship service on Ascension. Apparently, Ascension Day doesn’t matter.
But it does matter. In fact, it matters every bit as much as Good Friday, Easter, and Christmas. It deserves to be celebrated. It’s a holy day when believers are meant to reflect on this amazing event – the moment when Jesus leaves his disciples and is lifted up to heaven before their very eyes. It’s a miraculous occurrence and one which leaves us wondering how it happened. Some folks believe that Jesus just walked up into the clouds surrounding the mountain they were on and disappeared into the mist. Others have speculated that Jesus was an astronaut, and that the biblical description is actually that of Christ getting into a rocket ship and blasting off into space.
However, the importance of the event is not about the how it occurred, but why it took place. Jesus was going back to where he came from, to be reunited with God, his Father in Heaven. To do this, he had to let go of his disciples and allow them to continue his mission on Earth. Christ had completed all the tasks that God had given him, now it was up to his followers to further his ministry. If they went back to their old ways, the Church would never exist, and Christ’s work would have been worthless. However, if his followers were willing to take up the challenge, Jesus’ mission would continue. Thankfully, they chose the latter and we are now the beneficiaries of Christ’s ministry today.
Risen, ascended Lord, you came down to lift us up. You descended to earth that earth might ascend to heaven. In our struggles, lift us up. Out of darkness into light, out of despair into hope, lift us Lord. Out of sadness into joy, out of anger into forgiveness, out of doubt into faith, out of loneliness into community. Lift us into your heart. Amen.