Joy to the World
When I was young, Easter was definitely lower on my list of holiday favorites. How could it compare to opening presents on Christmas morning, or trick or treating at Halloween? Sure, we got Easter baskets with some candy, but growing up in the church meant that we had to be at church especially early for Easter Sunday’s sunrise service—What seven-year-old likes getting up at 6 am (or adult for that matter)? As a child, I always resonated with the Christmas message, much more than the Easter message. God sending His Son into the world as a baby made sense to me. “God wanted to be with us,” I thought, “so He came into this world in Bethlehem.” Though the Christmas message is truly amazing, now that I’m older, I’ve come to cherish Easter realizing that without it, there is no “Joy to the World.” Without Easter, Christmas is dead, for without it, humanity would still be separated from God because of sin, still destined for judgment, and still without hope or joy. The cross and the resurrection changed this.
In Matthew 27, when Jesus died, it says He let out a loud voice, and the moment this happened the veil in the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. This is enormously significant. In Jesus’s day, the people worshiped God at the temple in Jerusalem. In the very center of the temple was a room called, “The Holy of Holies,” which was the earthly dwelling place of God’s Holy presence among the people. The book of Hebrews tells us that there was a veil in the temple that separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the temple where man dwelt, which was a picture of humanities’ separation from God because of sin. No one but the high priest was permitted to pass beyond this veil, and if anyone else did, they would be struck dead immediately. Once each year the high priest would enter into God’s presence to make atonement for the people’s sins. But the atonement was only temporary. The sacrifice was not enough and would have to be repeated every year. But when Christ died, no further sacrifice would be needed. No further payment for sin need be paid.
When Christ died, the veil was torn in two, which was no small feat—Jewish tradition holds that the veil that covered the Holy of Holies was nearly sixty feet high and four inches thick. So, when God Himself tore this massive veil in two from top to bottom, it was God’s message to the world that He Himself had removed the barrier between God and man. The Joy that was born into the world on Christmas morning had died to pay for humanities’ sin so the barrier between a Holy God and sinful man could be forever removed, and the resurrection proved it. Though humanity was kicked out of the garden of Eden because of sin, we can now re-enter again by grace through faith in Christ, to live with our Creator who is the source of life-giving joy.