When someone says, “I’m not a big morning person,” I don’t believe him. What he means is that he laments leaving bed, in all its undemanding warmth, for the to-do lists that he best tackles after lunch or even dinner. He doesn’t like the mundane experience of morning: Alarms jolt. Phones ping. Air chills. Eyes blink. Coffee burns. Coffee spills.
Now that I can understand.
But I’m convinced there’s no such thing as a person who does not like morning itself — morning as it is, morning apart from circadian sleepers, morning unassociated from the day’s demands. C. S. Lewis would call it the “quiddity,” or is-ness, of morning.1 Of this morning no one could possibly say, “I’m not a big morning person.”
No matter one’s belief system, it would be like saying, “I’m not a big ‘fresh sunshine’ person. I’m not a big ‘steady growth’ person. I’m not a big ‘renewed hope’ person. I’m not a big ‘second chances’ person.” Have you ever heard someone say these things? I haven’t. Plus, these are only a common-grace snapshot of the quiddity, the is-ness, of morning.
By “common-grace snapshot,” I mean the morning-ness that God bestows on all people, not just his people. “He makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust,” said Jesus (Matthew 5:45). Dew does not cease to shimmer when the atheist cracks her blinds. In his mercy, God gives believers and nonbelievers alike the experience of shaking their heads at his sunrise.
But for the believer, morning does not end with morning. When sunlight slants across the window, and our eyes cannot turn away, our hearts do. They go to God.
We praise him for stitching together countless rays of sunshine. We thank him for blanketing our town with its warmth each day. In the kitchen light, we wonder at the way our children seem to have grown overnight without once asking for our help; we recognize God as their true Maker and Sustainer. We hug our spouses, yesterday’s argument a case closed; we give thanks to the God who often pairs forgiveness with dawn.
God made morning, in all its allure, not that our wonder would terminate upon clouding skies but that it would expand upon contemplation of the God who made morning, and everything else.
Mornings Tell the Gospel Story
But Christians would be remiss to hush our praises here. It is good and right to praise God as the Giver of morning’s earthly wonders. We should glorify God when peach creeps across the sky. We should thank him for the chance to work on projects and relationships anew. Still, these are not the essence of morning. They are not ultimately that for which we ought to praise God when we rise from sleep.
Rather, day after day morning depicts the way he has saved us. Consider 2 Corinthians 4:6: “God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” When God called forth the first morning in Genesis 1:3, the darkness receded.
Our salvation tells the same story. When God first showers the believer with the “light of the gospel,” it overcomes a heart and mind once darkened by sin and unbelief (2 Corinthians 4:4). Now — only now! — can he “see God in the sunrise,” as the cliché goes.
None of this is his doing (Ephesians 2:8–9). God has not given him spiritual glasses to clarify what his eyes have already glimpsed in a haze. The eyes of his heart were not nearsighted. They were dead to the things of God (Ephesians 2:1–3). “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:4–5).
Like morning, we have been “called . . . out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). Also like morning, God’s salvific work in us occurs every day. True, the gospel dawns in us once and for all when it is first truly “preached” and then truly “received” (1 Corinthians 15:1). By Christ’s blood we are past-tense justified before God. Also by Christ’s blood we present-tense stand upon this gospel, by which we “are being saved” morning after morning (1 Corinthians 15:2).
This gospel is the essence of morning. It is ultimately that for which we ought to praise God when we rise from sleep, watching light overshadow dark. In morning we see not just the powerful Maker of the sunrises we love, but the gracious Author of the gospel we need.
Christ Forsook Morning for Our Sake
That’s truly astonishing. Still, we have yet to strike the heart of what may be the most wondrous aspect of the Christian experience of morning — namely, the details of how it came to be. What had to happen that we might declare with Jeremiah, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22–23)? There are no better mornings to ask and answer this question than the mornings of Holy Week.
Even more so, there is no single better morning than the morning of Good Friday. On it, God hid his face from the only man who ever deserved to bask in the radiant love of God: Jesus Christ. Of this day Matthew writes, “When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death. And they bound him and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate the governor” (Matthew 27:1).
When morning came, “all” the Jewish rulers in Jerusalem plotted “against” Christ. When morning came, they handed him a “death” warrant. When morning came, they “bound” him as if he were a criminal. When morning came, they “led him away” from the freedom enjoyed by the masses of transgressors: themselves, the disciples, the crowds, and us. When morning came, they “delivered him over to Pilate the governor,” who would allow him to be strung up on a Roman cross — murdered, as if he were himself a murderer.
When Jesus awoke on the morning of Good Friday, he did not experience the Christian morning that you and I enjoy today, perhaps even at this moment. This thought causes me to recoil: I know he hung there because of me. This thought also causes me to rejoice: I know he hung there for me, and I know he was victorious.
For the morning of Good Friday was not Christ’s last morning on this earth. Matthew’s story continues: “Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb” (Matthew 28:1). An angel, descended from heaven, rolls back the stone and sits upon it. The Roman guards tremble. The angel turns to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said” (Matthew 28:1–7). Jesus’s tomb holds no Jesus.
When morning came, he was alive.
Indeed, this very morning he is alive, as are we because of him. So let us never avert our eyes from the morning of Good Friday, the cross that followed it, that we might experience the joy of Easter morning in all its fullness. Morning is more than a series of nondescript alarms and alerts with a pink backdrop. Morning is a window to the God of a good creation, the God of earthly hope, the God of the eternal gospel.
1 Here’s a longer quote from C. S. Lewis’s autobiography, Surprised by Joy, where he details the quiddity of quiddity: “But Jenkin seemed to be able to enjoy everything; even ugliness. I learned from him that we should attempt a total surrender to whatever atmosphere was offering itself at that moment; in a squalid town to seek out those very places where its squalor rose to grimness and almost grandeur, on a dismal day to find the most dismal and dripping wood, on a windy day to seek the windiest ridge. There was no Betjemannic irony about it; only a serious, yet gleeful, determination to rub one’s nose in the very quiddity of each thing, to rejoice in its being (so magnificently) what it was.”