Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the 40 days of Lent, and Ascension Day comes 40 days after Easter. On this day, Jesus gathered with his disciples, gave His final remarks, and ascended into heaven to be seated at the right hand of the Father. His entire mission — dying for our sins, conquering death through his resurrection, and revealing himself to his disciples — was fulfilled. So Ascension Day is a joyous time when Christians celebrate the conclusion of our Lord’s ministry here on earth.
In much of Europe, Ascension Day is a public holiday. It always falls on Thursday, and schools are out, shops are closed and people celebrate the reign of Christ at special worship services. So, how do you celebrate the day? Do you have an Ascension Day cookout? How about Ascension Day gifts or an Ascension Day balloon ride? We don’t really do these things. In fact, schools are in session, stores are open, and almost everyone has to go to work. In all honesty, this holiday can easily slip by many people. Maybe we don’t know how to celebrate — or even what to celebrate!
As you know, May is already full of celebrations— Mother’s Day, graduations, Memorial Day, and the Indy 500. We know how to celebrate these events, but how in the world do you celebrate Ascension Day? We’re not the first people to ponder this question. On the first Ascension Day, people were understandably pretty dumbfounded as Jesus ascended. “And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1)
After they heard the Angel’s words, the Bible tells us that “Then they returned to Jerusalem…. And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying…. All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.”
Mothers, grads, Memorial Day cookouts and even the Indy 500 are really not as dramatic as Ascension Day. Our lesser celebrations take place under the reign and rule of our Ascended Lord! The work of our congregations and of the Indiana District is all possible because Jesus completed the Mission of the Father and then sent the Holy Spirit to move and power us and the church. It all actually fits together quite nicely! Love your Mom, congratulate your grads, remember those who have defended our nation, and enjoy the race – just don’t let Ascension Day slip by!
So, how do you celebrate Ascension Day? While you could have a cookout, parade, or party, it might be most appropriate to do what the apostles did on the first Ascension Day, “devoting themselves to prayer” and intentionally doing what Jesus prayed we would do. Here’s a portion of His prayer for us: “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. (John 17:16- 18). Let’s celebrate Ascension Day by being a bold and clear witness for our faith! Happy Ascension Day!