John 14:19 (New International Version)
19Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.
The insistent beep of the alarm breaks through my warm cocoon of slumber. It is 4.45 a.m.
My fingers fumble to silence the intrusion.
A voice from behind me in the dark, a gentle, helpful voice, says,"The alarm went off, love."
"Yes, thanks, I know...a few more minutes," I mumble back.
But I dare not give into the siren that pulls me back to the shores of sleep. I have somewhere to be this morning.
For He is risen.
And so I slip silently as a shadow from the bed, and pad downstairs.
I shower while the coffee perks, and listen to Jeff Goodes on CBC radio as he gathers the country together, creating community via email and phone.
Listeners who are up share plans for the day. One is putting a turkey in the oven, the only one up in a sleeping household, while others, like me, are about to leave for sunrise services. It feels as though we are all together somehow in the hush of the early morning, not alone as we are in our individual homes.
I soon am driving west, along a charcoal ribbon of road, towards Tottenham. Behind me, the eastern sky is the rosy colour of the flesh that surrounds a peach pit; ahead of me a silver globe, the full moon, shines in the twilight.
I pass sleepy farms, surrounded by fields in which the remains of last year's corn stands up, blond stubble, through the crusted snow.
Pulling off the road, I join other vehicles slowly crunching up the hill leading into the conservation area.
It is very cold! Easter has not been this early in 95 years, and it will be not be again, for another 200 years. As we walk from our cars, the crisp snow crunches loudly beneath our feet, and we sound like an army marching over gravel.
We huddle together, a cross-denominational community of Christ followers, offering the triumphant Easter greeting, "He is risen." And back comes the affirmation, "He is risen indeed."
A brave trumpet player raises his instrument to cold-numbed lips, and as the first notes lead us in song, two Canada Geese take to flight over the frozen pond, their plaintive honking sounding like a rusty gate, swinging on its hinges.
As the sun creeps over the treetops across the pond, a pressure crack bangs over the water and we sing, "Thine is the glory, risen conquering Son, Endless is the victory, Thou o'er death hast won."
Later, at Fraser Presbyterian, I enter the warm church and the tantalizing aroma of breakfast weaves its welcome around cold and hungry celebrants. Sausages, pancakes, homemade muffins and fruit salad are waiting downstairs. No breakfast ever smelled more appetizing.
A young man from our church, eyes squinting as he remembers, tells me that he felt Jesus walking among us up on the hill. He says he had prayed to feel him.
I suddenly feel a bit shallow. I had been listening hard and looking at all that was around me, trying to take it all in and remember it. He was looking for all the right things.
Once home I call Susan in her Windsor motel room. "He is risen!" I declare in response to her "Hello." With a joyful laugh she responds, "He is risen indeed."
I read the Daily Light reading for March 23rd to her. It seems so fitting that one of the last scriptures in the evening reading is this:
Matthew 18:20 (New International Version)
20For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."
Yes, Lord Jesus. You were with us; all of us, today.