On Sunday, the choir and I introduced “Christ is Risen” to the congregation at First Baptist Church of Farmersville. “Christ is Risen” was written in 2009 by Matt Maher and Mia Fieldes, and released on Maher’s 2009 album “Alive Again.” “Christ is Risen” has been one of my favorite worship songs since I introduced it to the congregation at First Baptist Church Marlin, Texas, in 2011. You can listen to the song on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IExdrZGQVeI
Matt Maher was born in the same province as my wife: Newfoundland, Canada. He later moved to Arizona with his family and studied jazz piano at Arizona State University. Rich Mullins helped disciple Maher early on in his Christian walk and connected him with some other Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) artists. Today, Maher is one of the leading songwriters in CCM, and has co-written with basically everyone, including Chris Tomlin, David Crower, Matt Redman, Jason Ingram, Kari Jobe, and Michael W. Smith. Some of his other well-known songs include "Your Grace is Enough," "Lord I Need You," and "All the People Said Amen." For "Christ is Risen," Maher teamed up with Mia Fieldes, who was on the Hillsong worship team for ten years before moving to Nashville, Tennessee.
There are several reasons why I think this is a great congregational worship song. The opening piano riff always captures my attention. I love playing and singing the song. I also find the pairing of the words and the way the music epically builds in the bridge to be one of the most satisfying combinations of text and music in contemporary worship music. Yet I think the greatest strength of this song is its central theme: “Christ is risen from the dead.”
The resurrection is the key tenet of the Christian faith. We should sing about it, not just on Easter, but all year long. “Christ is Risen” is a great song for any week of the year, because it highlights several effects of the resurrection that we should celebrate.
1. Because of the resurrection, we can have freedom from sin, new life, and release from guilt and shame.
These words from the first verse are reminiscent of Hebrew 12:1-2:
“Let no one caught in sin remain
Inside the lie of inward shame
But fix our eyes upon the cross and
Run to Him who showed great love.”
Ephesians 5:14 says, "Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you." The chorus paraphrases this scripture by saying,
"Christ is risen from the dead, trampling over death by death
Come awake, come awake, come and rise up from the grave.”
2. Because of the resurrection, death has been defeated.
Both the chorus and bridge dwell on this idea. The chorus says, “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling over death by death.” The bridge quotes Hosea 13:14 and 1 Corinthians 15:55 with the lines, “O death, where is your sting? O hell, where is your victory?” Truly, “Death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15:54) because of the work of Christ.
3. Jesus proved that He is ruler of the universe by His resurrection.
The second verse in particular talks about Jesus’ power, how He overcame all obstacles to fulfill the Father’s plan, and how He is now reigning:
“Beneath the weight of all our sin,
You bowed to none but heaven’s will.
No scheme of hell, no scoffer’s crown,
No burden great can hold You down.
In strength You reign.
Forever let Your church proclaim.”
4. Because of the resurrection, we can be one with God again. We can fellowship with Him, which is His greatest desire, and our greatest joy.
The second half of the chorus states, "Christ is risen from the dead, We are one with Him again." Jesus prayed for all believers to be one with each other, one with Him, and one with the Father in His high priestly prayer. In John 17:21, Jesus prayed, "that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me." Furthermore, reconciliation or restoration is one of the key themes of the atonement. In 2 Corinthians 5:18, Paul talks about the ministry of reconciliation: "All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation."
One mark of a great worship song is that it contains concise, memorable statements about theology. With a few carefully chosen words, “Christ is Risen” reminds us of many significant scriptures. In other words, it is "portable theology." If you don't already know and love this song, I hope that you will come to do so.