The problem of the forgotten holiday – Ascension Day

What is the forgotten holiday?  Actually, maybe not so much forgotten.  More like never really celebrated that much.  Ever.  I call it the “forgotten” holiday as a nod to Francis Chan’s book – The Forgotten God.  Does that help to identify it?  If you live someplace like France, Germany, Norway or Sweden – you’ll be wondering why I call it forgotten.  Your countries haven’t forgotten.  But if you’re like me, in the U.S. – or if you’re in the U.K., Canada or Australia – you get it.  Maybe, no matter the country, you get it if you’re Catholic.  The forgotten holiday - Ascension DaySo what is the forgotten holiday?  It’s Ascension Day.

From timeanddate.com, if we don’t already know, we learn:

Ascension Day is the 40th day of Easter. It occurs 39 days after Easter Sunday. It is a Christian holiday that commemorates Jesus Christ’s ascension into heaven according to Christian belief.

I wrote a little about this event the other day in Which is more important – Christmas or Easter? I suggested that, in a sense, Ascension Day was actually more important than either Christmas or Easter.  If you read that one, Good Friday was included.  The simple reality is that all four events are critical for Christians.

Without Jesus dying, there could be no Resurrection.  No Easter.  Without Jesus being born – without Christmas – there’s no way He could die.  So it’s a series of events that must all take place.  In that order.

Of course, that begs a question as to why Christmas and Easter became big famous holidays – but Good Friday didn’t.  Likely because there’s no way to turn that particular event into something nice and fluffy.  No giant overweight man giving out presents over the gruesome death of someone.

And no way to justify Robin Hood-like bunnies stealing eggs from poor unsuspecting chickens, coloring them, and giving them to gleeful kids who don’t yet realize that the objects of their delight had to have been stolen in order to be delivered by bunnies.  Bunnies that don’t lay chicken eggs.

Ascension Day – forgotten?  or ignored?

But what about Ascension Day?  This is an awesome event.  Jesus returned to Heaven.  As was pointed out in the previous article on Christmas and Easter – if the “only” thing Jesus did was come back to life, the Christian goal of eternity in Heaven hasn’t been accomplished.  So yes, this is a big deal.

Jn 14:1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”

Jesus being alive again, only to remain on earth forever, doesn’t accomplish the mission.  When Jesus is our example – our proof that what He says is true – the things in this passage must be completed.

There must be “many rooms” that have been prepared for us.  Not that they are literal “rooms”, as in a motel room.  (See Dragons and the things God has prepared for those who love him for more on that thought.)  There’s no way Jesus could begin to explain Heaven to us living on this earth.  Remember, He really only ever spoke of the Kingdom of Heaven in parables.

Further, Jesus said He was going to return to Heaven to prepare a place for us.  If Jesus couldn’t return to Heaven – if He stayed here Resurrected but still walking this earth – He could not prepare that place.  And if Jesus wasn’t capable of getting Himself back to Heaven, how could we ever hope He could get us there?

And so, this Ascension Day is huge,  Without Jesus being able to ascend back to Heaven, everything else He said in that John 14 passage would have been idle talk.  Lies.  Or statements from a deranged person.

Now we see, the full sequence, for Jesus, must be

born – Christmas
dead – Good Friday
resurrected – Easter
returned to Heaven – Ascension Day

And yet, many Christians around the world don’t celebrate Ascension Day.  I wonder, other than Catholics, how many people even know there is such a thing.  Let alone – how many people know when it is?

Ascension Day as a public holiday

Here’s something else from timeanddate.com

Ascension Day is officially celebrated on a Thursday on the 40th day of Easter (or 39 days after Easter Sunday). In countries where it is a public holiday, Ascension Day is a free day for many workers. Many people take a long weekend off because the day falls on a Thursday. The Friday in between is usually quiet, particularly in shops and offices. Despite Christianity being a minority religion in Indonesia, Ascension Day is a public holiday and special services take place at churches throughout the country.

Even Indonesia has Ascension Day as a public holiday.  Indonesia is primarily Muslim.  Christians are in the minority.  And yet, Ascension Day is a public holiday.  That’s even more amazing when you look at the different beliefs about Jesus between Muslims and Christians.  For Christians, as we saw, His Ascension to Heaven is essential.

But for Muslims, Jesus was a prophet, not the Son of God.  Further, Islam teaches that Jesus was never crucified.  Imagine the explaining that has to be done when a national holiday celebrates the Ascension of someone whom the Muslims acknowledge only His birth.  Not His death on the Cross.  Not Jesus being raised from the dead.  And not His ascension to Heaven.

Forgetting Ascension Day

Of all places, you’d expect Muslim countries would want to forget Ascension Day.  And of all places, you’d expect that majority Christian countries would remember and celebrate it.  Instead, too many of us have forgotten – or never knew about it.  That’s sad.

It’s like all we want is to be brought back to life.  This life.  Not the one God promised.  Not the one where Jesus will be King.  No – we want the life we have now.  Where we are king.  The life where we celebrate Jesus’ incredible resurrection with bunny rabbits handing out stolen chicken eggs.  Where life goes on as we want it to.  Where we create god in our image.

We don’t seem to even want to think about Ascension Day.  Because then we have to acknowledge that life as we now know it – it’s going to end.  It will never be the same.  Never.  Ever.

Life in Hell is way worse.  Anything good that we now have – it’s gone.  Because that “good” was from God.   And God’s not in Hell.  Only Satan and the things he created – which would be nothing.

Life in Heaven won’t be life on earth.  It’ll be far better than we can currently dream of.  But it will be different.  And we’re afraid of change.  Even if the One to whom we promised to dedicate our lives promises it will be infinitely better, we’re afraid.

Even though the Bible records God, Jesus, Angels saying so often, “Do not be afraid” – we’re still afraid.

Something else forgotten

At the beginning, I said I’m calling this the Forgotten Holiday as a nod to Francis Chan’s book, The Forgotten God.

If you haven’t read the book, it’s about the Holy Spirit.  You know – the third part of the Trinity?  As in The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit?  Please check out Jesus is my co-pilot? if you’d like to know more about the importance of not forgetting about the Holy Spirit.

But there’s more to this connection than just that we tend to forget both the Holy Spirit and Jesus’ Ascension to Heaven.

Let’s start off with this:

The Great Commission

Mt 28:16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

All Christians should be familiar with the Great Commission.  In fact, every Christian should be actively fulfilling the Great Commission.  Unfortunately, it’s that’s not always the case – as you can see in The Great Omission from The Great Commission.

But have you ever paid attention to the last part of it?  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. To be sure, Jesus returned to Heaven.  That’s what this article is all about.  So how is it that He’s with us always – when He’s back in Heaven.

Sure – the easy answer is that God is always present everywhere.  Omniscient.  But that’s too easy.  How does He do this?  We are given an answer.  One we should know.  Acknowledge.  And make good use of.

Jesus Promises the Holy Spirit

Jn 14:15 “If you love me, you will obey what I command. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.”

Jn 14:25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Jn 15:26 “When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. 27 And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.

Jn 16:5 “Now I am going to him who sent me, yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief. 7 But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; 10 in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.

Jn 16:12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.

Jn 16:16 “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.”

Yes – that Holy Spirit.  The One that will come after Jesus ascends to Heaven.  After Jesus returns to Heaven.

And so it appears that we tend to forget the Holy Spirit more than once.  We forget that He exists.  So maybe it’s natural that we also forget He was to appear after Ascension Day.

And yes – this is a big deal.  As God/man Jesus can interact with one person – up to a group of people within hearing range.  Remember – there was no radio, TV or internet back then.  But with the Holy Spirit – the Mind of Christ as Paul calls Him – every one of us can have what Christians like to refer to as that personal relationship with God.

But guess what?  No Holy Spirit – this doesn’t happen.  No Ascension Day – the Holy Spirit doesn’t come.

Yes – it’s a huge thing.

Remembering Ascension Day

Lk 12:32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.

Remember Ascension Day.

Celebrate Ascension Day.  It’s proof that Jesus can do what He promised.  That He does have a place prepared for us.  And that He will return for us, to take us there.  It’s proof of the culmination of everything Jesus came to earth to accomplish.

Even if it’s not a public holiday, we can still celebrate it.

And even if it’s not on a Sunday – we can still remember and celebrate it as a special day for God.

It will never be on Sunday, so don’t wait for that.

Every day we’re alive is a gift from God.  They should all be celebrated.  Some of them, like Christmas, Good Friday and Easter have “extra” meaning.  Well, so does Ascension Day.

If you’re in Colombia or Venezuela, it’s June 3rd this year.

If you’re in other countries, it’s likely to be May 30th.  Unless, you’re a member of an Orthodox Christian faith who has a different day for Easter.  But no matter when it is, if you’re Christian, there is an Ascension Day.  Look it up in your calendar for your denomination / country.

And celebrate it.  After all, Jesus was born, suffered and died, then was raised back to life – in order to Ascend back to Heaven.  Then later, when the time comes, He’ll have a place for us and bring us to that place as well.  That’s what Ascension day is all about.  It should be a forgotten holiday.  It should take its place as one of the four incredibly important events of Jesus short time on this earth.

Yes – Jesus died to pay the price for our sins.  But there’s more.  He also promises us that after that price is paid, we can / will spend eternity with Him.  The price was paid on Good Friday.  Easter – Resurrection Day is when Jesus came back to life.  But Ascension Day is the day Jesus proved there is a path to Heaven.

Ascension Day is an important day.  Please – make it so.

2 thoughts on “The problem of the forgotten holiday – Ascension Day”

  1. I stumbled onto this website while researching a C.S. Lewis quote cited in the “Screwtape Letters”. I’m glad I did. I love it!

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