The Great Fifty Days
One of the challenges in preparing for the Easter Service is picking only three hymns. Like Christmas, the hymns for this festive day are among the most beautiful in the tradition; but unlike Christmas (happily) they have not been blaring from mall speakers for weeks on end. They're inviting, joyful, and singable: especially when the church is full, as it is on Easter Sunday. This year I let go of "The Day of Resurrection!" to include "The Strife Is O'er" - but it was a tough decision!
Of course, there's no rule saying we can't sing 4 or 6 hymns on Easter, but there's also no reason to cram them in. For the good news, as you may know, is that Easter is a 50 day celebration, not a one-day blow out. We have eight Sundays to celebrate, wonder, and explore the meaning of the resurrection, the central tenant of our faith. This year the lectionary takes us through provocative passages in the book of Acts, the Gospel of John and the book of Revelation as we ask, "What does it mean that 'Christ is Alive?'" (Hymn #108). The final Sunday of Easter, May 23rd this year, is also the Day of Pentecost, when we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit to the church - a day which has wonderful hymns of its own.
So this year we'll be singing Easter hymns beyond that first Sunday, and occasionally an Easter hymn may even pop up on some other Sunday of the year. For on every Sunday, even during Lent, we celebrate the resurrection of Christ, as we remember his life and death. Every Sunday we affirm our belief that the risen Christ has inaugurated a new creation and is with us still. So, although there are hymns best reserved for that first Sunday in Easter - we won't sing "Christ the Lord is Risen Today" in Advent or Lent or August - it's liturgically correct to sing of Christ's resurrection at any time of the year. On what Sunday would these words not apply?
Now let the heavens be joyful, Let earth the song begin,
Let the round world keep triumph, and all that is there-in;
Let all things seen and unseen Their notes of gladness blend,
For Christ the Lord is risen, Our joy that hath no end.
Grace and Peace,