On Saturday, most of us will take a break from church and decorate eggs, sneak some chocolate a day early, or cook for Easter dinner. But around the world, many Christians will be at church holding vigil that night: waiting for Christ to pass from death to life, keeping watch as he lay in the tomb, staying awake during his “short sleep,” in the words of St. Augustine. The Easter Vigil is a service of light - new Christians are baptized and others renew their baptismal vows. Salvation history is recounted in readings from the Old and New Testament. It is both a solemn and joyful service, as Christians ponder the mystery of the resurrection.
For historical reasons, few Presbyterian Churches hold an Easter Vigil - it’s a recent “renewal” of an ancient practice. But I encourage you, in the midst of preparations, to take time on Saturday evening for quiet prayer and reflection in the spirit of a vigil, perhaps reading an account of the passion and the resurrection from your favorite gospel, preparing for our celebration the next morning. And you may also enjoy, and find helpful, this song from the Shaker tradition. It was not written for the Vigil (I’m quite certain they didn’t observe it!), but may it serve to awaken our souls, so we are ready to welcome Christ on that “great and glorious day.”
Wake up, wake up, ye sleepy souls,
And be alive and don’t be dead,
There is no time to sleep I say,
Now in this great and glorious day.
Don’t be sleeping there so sound,
Get up yourselves and stir around.
For if you want to keep awake,
Arise and give a mighty shake.
Grace and Peace,