I love graduation. By now, I’ve watched 26 years of seminary students come and go–and I’m still not bored with it. Truly. I get caught up in the celebratory atmosphere; the auditorium is packed not only with happy graduates, but their families and friends.
Most students, even while beaming from ear to ear, cross the stage in a dignified and stately manner. But not all. Some come in flip-flops. Some pump their fists or wave to the audience. Some dance a little, and once in a very great while, there may even be a cartwheel–not the easiest thing to do in a cap and gown.
My favorite moments, though, are the ones involving family. This morning, as one woman took the stage to a smattering of applause, the relative quiet was punctuated by a small, clear voice: “Yay, mommy!” Later, another student, already a pastor, was greeted with a loud chorus of “Yay, Dad!” From the sound of it, the man had many daughters.
Things usually begin relatively sedately, with mere clapping. But a few minutes later, someone ups the ante with a shout. Eventually some graduate’s whole rooting section is revealed, and there’s no going back. The decibel level creeps steadily upward, until the final graduate’s name is called and the resulting roar can be heard all the way to heaven.
Well, in the parking lot anyway. (After all, even the whispers could already be heard in heaven.)
And the entire celebration is infused with classic hymnody, this year ending with All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name. We rise to sing as one, and my voice always chokes with emotion at the last stanza: “O, that with yonder sacred throng, we at his feet may fall! We’ll join the everlasting song, and crown him Lord of all!”
It seems a fitting end to a joyous celebration. But it works the other way too: there is something about commencement, in all its pomp and circumstance, that points me toward the day which the hymn proclaims, the day in which we will together celebrate the coronation of Jesus, the King of Kings.
In truth, I simply don’t think of that day much. Commencement helps remind me of what I’m missing, the hope, the anticipation of glory.
I don’t have to wait until next June to celebrate that hope. But at least I know with confidence that I always have June to look forward to.