During my time in campus ministry years ago, an engineering student from Indonesia expressed disbelief that we American Christians paid no attention to Ascension Day. Although Christianity is a minority faith there, he said, Indonesians make a big deal out of remembering Jesus’ ascension to heaven following the Resurrection.

Today is Ascension Day — commemorated to various degrees by Christians worldwide — on the 40th day of Easter. (That is, 39 days after Easter Sunday.) However, some Roman Catholics delay the celebration until the following Sunday.

In Indonesia and several other countries, Ascension Day is a public holiday with special services and celebrations taking place at churches and in other settings.

Dating back to A.D. 68, this is one of the oldest Christian festivals. Traditions vary widely including some annual public events that climax with “the devil” being dunked in a pond or burned in effigy.

Whatever the tradition, today is a special day for Christians in many parts of the world as they celebrate the Ascension of Christ — or the “Kenaikan Isa Almasih” – as they say in Indonesia.

The most troubling realization is that, for many Christians worldwide, today is when the Feast of the Ascension is celebrated in grand style.

A feast? Now, typically, that’s not something Americans — especially Baptists —miss out on.

[The Ascension Chapel in an Arab neighborhood on the Mount of Olives where Jesus gathered his disciples before ascending to Heaven.]

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