Slowly we walked back home from the Easter sunrise service. We looked forward to this annual event on the lawn of the church where my husband was minister. This year the beauty was too lovely to leave.
The glorious day of resurrection of our Lord Jesus began on a chilly, cloudy morning, but eventually sunshine had spread it's rays across the sky. We praised God for His creation and for the joy of resurrection.
We did not know that grief was only moments away. A few hours away, my sister Margaret, had just returned from the sunrise service at a beach near her home in Virginia.
The ocean and the sands of the beach were favorite places for her. She had once told me the title of her book she planned to write would be Footprints in the Sand. But she never got to write that book. Some of her last earthly footprints were in the sand on that beach.
When she arrived back at her home, she had a heart attack and fell to the floor. When her body was quickly discovered by her family there was confusion and crying.
There was more confusion and crying when her husband called our house and said, "Margaret is gone". My first question was, "Gone where?" Then he told us the shocking news.
What does one do when death comes so quickly? Without the knowledge that in Jesus Christ there is no death, the response would be bathed in hopelessness and despair.
A sudden death of a loved one is heartbreaking. But the Christian believes that life is eternal. When the body dies and we leave this earth we go to a greater Home - face to face with the God who created us.
When my husband and I heard the news about my sister on that bright and beautiful Easter morning, I was preparing to teach Sunday School and his sermon would proclaim the glory of the resurrection. We knew that Margaret was an active Christian and God had received her life into her heavenly home.
Tears flowed from my eyes as I told our sons and my mother. She had never visited in our home during Easter. It was very good to have her with us at this particular time. I taught my Sunday School class .We cried together as I shared memories of my sister. Their loving prayers brought comfort.
That morning, I chose to sit in the congregation and not to sing in the choir. It was restful to sit on the soft cushions of the pew. The picture on the front of my bulletin showed radiant sunshine bursting onto the open tomb of Jesus. The words "He Is Risen" brought peace to my heart as I wrote a capital "S" before the word "He". There was no doubt that my sister had also risen.
The words of my husbands' sermon fed my heart with assurance. Easter music was also reassuring. I will never forget singing the familiar hymn, "Christ the Lord Is Risen Today."
In my book, 52 Hymn Story Devotions I write:
"This majestic hymn brings a smile to my face as I joyfully sing it and proclaim the central belief of the Christian faith. Without this truth we would have only a history of a man named Jesus. Charles Wesley wrote these words to tell the Good News: Jesus died, but was raised from the dead and remains alive through the power of the Holy Spirit."
Wesley's life had been immersed in this knowledge. He was born into a Christian home in Epworth, England, in1707. His mother, Susannah Wesley, was his teacher who used the Bible as the basic teaching to all of her nineteen children. Charles attended Oxford university with his brother, John, and they were ordained as priests in the Church of England.
Both brothers felt called by God to be missionaries in America where they would evangelize the Indians. After arriving in this new land, they became restless and unfulfilled. Their lives were empty of religions fervor. The only alternative to their restlessness was returning to their home in England.
Several months after their arrival, both brothers had personal revivals in their own souls. For Charles it was on Sunday, May 21, 1738. He was touched by the fire of the Holy Spirit and he wrote this extraordinary event in his journal:
"At nine my brother and some friends came and sang a hymn to the Holy Ghost. In about half an hour they went. I betook myself to prayer. Yet still the Spirit of God strove with my own and the evil spirit till by degrees He chased away the darkness of my unbelief. I found myself convinced and fell into intercession."
In 1739 to commemorate his powerful Spirit re-birth, he wrote, "Christ The Lord Is Risen Today." Until his death, in 1788, Charles Wesley composed over six thousand hymns. Each one proclaims the simple but profound truth that Jesus is "the way the truth and the life..." (John 14:6).
Lord Jesus, we walk through this week in remembrance of the steps you took toward the horrors of crucifixion. We also remember the times our lives have led us through footsteps of grief. But because we follow You, our steps toward the healing of broken hearts and broken bodies set us free. Praise you Risen Lord, for coming to each one who opens the heart to invite You in to live for eternity. We pray in your holy and powerful name. Amen.
Lucy Neeley Adams has always loved music. She began telling the story of hymns on Christian radio WWGM in Nashville, TN, in the '80s. She then wrote a newspaper column titled "Song Stories" for five years. During that time Lucy's book, 52 Hymn Story Devotions, was published by Abingdon Press in Nashville. Each of the 52 stories contained in the book is written in a devotional format, with the words of the hymn concluding each devotion.
Lucy lives at Lake Junaluska, NC, with her minister husband, Woody. They have four children and fourteen grandchildren. She may be reached for comment at email@example.com. Visit her at 52hymns.com.