I’ve just returned from the ANZAC Day Dawn Service at Ingleburn RSL. ANZACism is probably rightly recognised as Australia’s “national religion”. The climax of the ceremony is the reading of the Ode, the Last Post played by a bugler, a minute’s silence and then the Reveille (or “Rouse”).
The symbolism is obvious. The Last Post, normally sounded out last thing at night, bids the troops go to sleep. For the fallen it is a dark reminder that they will sleep on and on. The Reveille speaks to waking up.
But, of course, the sad fact is that the Reveille is sounded in vain. The fallen are fallen and will not rise from their slumber. They have paid the ultimate price and year after year will be mourned by those left behind.
There’s something terribly poignant about the sound of the Reveille. It speaks to a great hope that will never be fully fulfilled. Of course, in a sense the dead are raised in our own remembrance and praise and yet for all the honour that we rightly show them, the graves remain unbroken. The dawn breaks over ANZAC Day services all over our nation, speaking to the hope of new life and fresh beginnings; the living slowly disperse, yet they leave their lost loved ones behind. The Reveille remains a sincere yet unfulfilled wish.
Of course this is not the whole story. There is a Reveille for a fallen hero that is more than grief-stained hope and in His rouse we can move beyond the Last Post to true awakening. In the Resurrection from the dead of Jesus Christ we can stare death in the face and know that it is defeated. Even more, in His resurrection we see vindication of the greatest sacrifice there ever was. So many of our servicemen gave their lives and yet we still live with wars and rumours of wars. But Jesus’ death surpasses even theirs, for it results in a complete and total victory.
1Cor. 15:51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
55 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
In many ways the ANZAC Day services around our country reflect this confidence. Many of us will have sung hymns that testify to the Cross and Resurrection.
I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.
Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.
Still stands His Cross from that dread hour to this,
Like some bright star above the dark abyss;
Still, through the veil, the Victor’s pitying eyes
Look down to bless our lesser Calvaries.
These were His servants, in His steps they trod,
Following through death the martyred Son of God:
Victor, He rose; victorious too shall rise
They who have drunk His cup of sacrifice.
O risen Lord, O Shepherd of our dead,
Whose cross has bought them and Whose staff has led,
In glorious hope their proud and sorrowing land
Commits her children to Thy gracious hand.
As a nation we understand sacrifice and we long for the Reveille for our fallen servicemen and servicewomen. More than that we yearn for an end to all war and the vanquishing of death itself. Today as we gather to remember can I encourage you to turn to and point to the One in whom all these wishes are fulfilled.
see also Lest We Forget – ANZAC Day 2012