Huddled in a hidden alley in East Jerusalem, hundreds of Christians from all corners of the world waited quietly in the crisp pre-dawn air to enter the idyllic Garden Tomb. They had come to commemorate the resurrection of Christ, and they would not remain quiet for long.
Having attended the Garden Tomb’s long-running “SonRise Service” in the past, though admittedly not for a number of years, it was striking how much it has changed. While still a solemn and reverent gathering, there was an undeniable freshness, even a youthfulness that lent itself to a truly celebratory atmosphere.
The setting couldn’t have been any more perfect. Garden Tomb Director Richard Meryon reiterated something he has said several times in the past: “Some believe this to be the authentic tomb of Christ. But the truth is that it doesn’t matter, because the tomb is empty, and that is what we are here to celebrate.” Meryon has stressed before that whether or not it be the authentic location, the Garden Tomb serves as a visual teaching tool to bring worshipers closer to the reality of what Christ did for them.
As the sun crested the nearby Mount of Olives, the Christians filling every corner of the Garden Tomb’s peaceful sanctuary sang out “Christ is risen.”
And it wasn’t only the residents of the neighboring streets that heard this high praise. Thanks to the efforts of the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), this year’s SonRise Service was broadcast around the world.
Why do Christians make such a celebration of this day, some of them traveling thousands of miles to do so?
In delivering the morning’s sermon, Pastor Wayne Hilsden of King of King’s Assembly in Jerusalem touched on that topic.
“We know the cross was necessary to pay for our sins, but what role did the resurrection play,” asked Hilsden, before answering his own question, “If Christ had not been raised, we would have no guarantee that God had accepted the payment.”
Keeping with the light and happy tone that characterized the service, Hilsden added, “The resurrection is the best news that ever came out of a graveyard.”
Attending the Garden Tomb’s SonRise service has always been a worthy pursuit for any Christian visiting the Holy Land. But it was clear that Meryon, Hilsden and all those involved were determined to make the event increasingly relevant for a new generation of believers. It is this writer’s recommendation that the younger generations of believers heed the invitation.
If you go:
The Garden Tomb is open Monday thru Saturday from 8:30 am to 12:00 pm and from 2:00 pm to 5:30 pm. Closed on Sundays
May 4th, 2013 – Orthodox Resurrection Celebration
1615-1745 -Resurrection Service
in Arabic, simultaneous translation into Hebrew)
Doors open 1600 and close 1800
Reservations are required for groups