This Is the Night: An Easter Vigil Sermon

This is the night when the earth is without form, and void; and darkness is over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moves upon the face of the waters. Then God says, “Let there be light,” and there is light. The seal of the darkness is broken and the morning of the first creation breaks forth out of night. Oh, how wonderful and beyond all telling is Thy mercy toward us, O God, that Thou didst create us to have someone upon whom to bestow Thy blessing; that Thou didst create light that in Thy light we may see light; that Thou most wonderfully created human nature and yet more wonderfully redeemed it.

This is the night when the earth is without form, and void; and darkness is over the face of the deep. And the Ark of Noah moves upon the face of the waters. And while all in whose nostrils was the breath of life died, we float safely in the Ark of Salvation, with the one whom his father named “Rest” as the captain of our vessel. Oh, how wonderful and beyond all telling is Thy mercy toward us, O God, that as Thy wrath burned for the evil of men and Thou didst bring this deluge upon a wicked and perverse generation, Thou didst save eight souls; that likewise through this saving flood of Baptism all that has been in us from Adam and which we ourselves have added thereto, has been drowned in us and engulfed, and that sundered from the number of the unbelieving, we have been preserved dry and secure in the holy ark of Christendom.

This is the night when the earth is without form, and void; and darkness is over the face of Egypt. And the Angel of death moves upon the face of the firstborn. And while we, with loins girded, feet shod, and mouths full of the Passover Lamb stand quietly in our blood-painted homes, the Egyptians with loins burning, eyes weeping, and mouths full of shrieking stand wailing in their homes now painted with the blood of their firstborn sons. Oh, how wonderful and beyond all telling is Thy mercy toward us, O God, that as the Angel of Death executed the firstborn of the Egyptians, He passed over our houses baptized in the blood of the Lamb; that Thou didst provide the Firstborn Son of heaven to be slaughtered in our place and we to be painted the color of divine innocence with hyssop dipped in the bloody font.

This is the night when the earth is formless and void; and darkness is over the face of Thy people. For Thou hast led us into the jaws of death, trapped between the waters of the Red Sea and the chariots of Egypt. But oh, how wonderful and beyond all telling is Thy mercy toward us, O God, that Thou didst set Thy Son as a pillar of fire between the camp of the enemy and the camp of Thy Church; that Thou didst send Thy Spirit to move upon the face of the waters, to split them open, to tear the liquid veil in two, that we might walk through dry shod, from death to life, from slavery to freedom, while Pharaoh with all his host are drowned in the collapsing flood.

This is the night when the earth is formless and void; and the darkness of blood is over the face of Thy Son. And the Spirit of God moves out of His body as He gives up the Ghost. This is the day when it is night; when the Son of God is drowned in the Flood that rains down from the storm cloud of divine justice; when the Passover Lamb is skewered to the cross and roasted over damning flames; when the body of Israel’s Redeemer is sunk by the weight of your sins to the bottom of the Red Sea; and when the first creation comes to its omega on the evening of the 7th day, as the God-made-Man rests in the tomb from all His work which He has done – all for you.

These are the nights when you are spared, O sinner, so repent and believe. How holy are these nights when the Lord God of Israel acts to save you, calling light out of darkness, arks out of water, free men out of bondage, dry feet out of sea floors; calling His Son out of heaven, into the womb, onto the cross, down into the bloody dust – all to save you, His people Israel, to save you from yourselves, to save you from the hellish Pharaoh, to save you for His own Name’s sake.

But this is the night from when all those nights receive their light. For this is the night when Christ, the Life arose from the dead. The seal of the grave is broken and the morning of the new creation breaks forth out of night. This is the night when the Lord leads Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, David and Bathsheba, you and you and all of you out of the blackness of the tomb and into the brilliance of the 8th day sun. This is the night when we receive more from Jesus than we lost in Adam; when we are clothed in the skin of the Lamb of God; when death’s dread angel sheathes his sword to beckon us with open arms back into the Garden of heaven.

This is the night when night is buried under the soil of resurrection. God says, “Let there be light” and there is, and there is, and there always shall be, sunshine without end. Oh, how wonderful and beyond all telling is Thy mercy toward us, O God, that as Thou didst say, “Let light shine out of darkness,” even so Thou hast shone in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of Thy glory in the face of the resurrected Christ.

How wonderful and beyond all telling is this most holy night!