The following article The Forgotten Festival: 7 Reasons to Rejoice on Ascension Day" was orginally posted on the website The Word Endures - The CPH blog (Concordia Publishing House) on 05/12/2015 by Dr. Joel Bierman.
There are no decorated evergreens, no greeting cards, no gifts, no poinsettias or lilies, no colored eggs, no chocolate bunnies, and no responsive salutation. There’s just a Thursday with an extra name: Ascension. It’s not just the world that has ignored the festival. The Church seems to have lost interest as well. Most congregations have elected to forgo a worship service on Ascension and those that cling to the tradition count on few to attend. Apparently, Ascension Day doesn’t matter.
But it does matter. In fact, it matters every bit as much as Good Friday, Easter, and Christmas. It deserves to be celebrated. For those still unconvinced, here are seven reasons to rejoice on Ascension Day:
1. Jesus ascended so that the Holy Spirit could descend.
The Spirit is the promised “other Comforter” essential to the life and growth of the Church—no Holy Spirit, no Church, no faith, no salvation. Jesus ascended to send the Spirit.
2. Jesus reigns now over everything.
He has been enthroned at the Father’s right hand, and the full glory of the Godhead is His. The ascension is His coronation ceremony and highlights the splendor and authority of Jesus over every king, ruler, and nation.
3. The ascension was the plan from the very beginning.
Just as the passion and resurrection were predicted in the Old Testament, so too was the ascension. Jesus’ extraordinary visible ascent is the essential capstone of his earthly ministry.
4. Jesus ascended bodily.
Joined eternally to true God, a true human body is the object of honor and worship. This has profound impact on our understanding of God’s nature and also human nature. The material aspects of God’s creation are very good and endure forever.
5. The commission announced by Jesus is now in full force.
Just as a death must precede the implementation of a will, so the ascension of Jesus must precede the implementation and empowerment of the command to the disciples (you included) to witness the reality of Jesus to the world.
6. The ascension of Jesus is a preview of the promised consummation.
At the Last Day Jesus will return as He went: physically and visibly. It will not be a “spiritual” or metaphorical return, but an actual coming of His physical body. No one is going to miss it.
7. Jesus is Lord.
Not only did Jesus come back from the dead, but He now reigns on high. He is Lord of all creation. He is Lord of your life.
Whether or not anyone else joins you, you’ve got much to celebrate on Ascension Day. At the very least, take a moment to gaze skyward, study a cloud, and offer a prayer of thanks and praise and anticipation to the one who now reigns on high and who is coming soon.
Dr. Joel Biermann is Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at Concordia Seminary Saint Louis.