Happy overlooked and misunderstood Ascension Day! One of three non-Sunday Holy Days John Wesley left on the calendar (along with Christmas and Good Friday), this is the celebration of the miraculous return of the resurrected Christ to glory in heaven. I had never even realized Ascension Day was a thing until a BAPTIST friend of mine challenged me to think about just how important it is in the Christian story. Previously, my only thoughts of the Ascension were Jesus holding out his hands in blessing and floating up like Peter Pan on wire ropes in a community play, or shooting up like Neo taking off at the end of the Matrix, or being raptured the way aliens abducted people in The Forgotten.
But where did he go? Nobody really believes in a three-tiered cosmos, with hell under earth and heaven literally in the sky. Is heaven a physical place that Jesus flew to without succumbing to the airless vacuum of space? I saw Event Horizon – I know what happens to the human body exposed to outer space! Why is his Ascension so important if it’s almost harder to believe than the resurrection?
John never published a sermon about Ascension day, but Charles wrote seven hymns published specifically for Ascension Day, and several other hymns of his clearly carry Ascension themes. Check out the Hymns of Ascension here.
We share in Christ’s victory. By re-entering his glory in Heaven, Christ is exalted for his victory over sin and death. In his hymn, “Hail the Day That Sees Him Rise,” Charles says: Near himself prepares our place / he the firstfruits of our race / There we shall with you remain / partners of your endless reign / see you with unclouded view / find our heaven of heavens in you.
The person of Christ is now our Judge and Advocate. Arise, my soul, arise / Shake off thy guilty fears / The bleeding sacrifice / In my behalf appears / Before the throne my surety stands / My name is written on his hands.
The promise that Christ will return in power, we shall join him in Heaven. In the clouds He shall come / and take his Bride home / to His banquet above / to his heavenly fullness of glory and love.