This Sunday marks an important Sunday in the life of the church liturgically. The Christian calendar, also known as the liturgical calendar, is coming to a close in November. Whereas our American calendar puts Christmas at the end of the year, the liturgical year actually begins with Advent after closing with Christ the King Sunday (November 22 this year). What I love about Christ the King Sunday is the emphasis on Christ on the throne.
We are about to start a period of reading and talking about the baby Jesus, but before we get there, we are reminded of the reign of Christ. For many, the holidays can be a difficult time. It can be a time that conjures up feelings of loss and loneliness.
This year, in particular, we cannot avoid the heaviness of the world in the wake of the destructive path of ISIS, the rhetoric surrounding Syrians refugees, and the still unsettled racial tension in America. Christ the King Sunday lets us reflect on all the good and all the bad of the year, but at the end of the day still proclaim, “Christ is on the throne.”
Some of our most sincere thanksgivings are in direct response to hardship. We are grateful for the little things during hardship (though the little things are probably really the biggest things) because we don’t know what else to do.
We know what we do have matters when we experience loss. When a family member is ill or you lose your job or your home, or terrorists attack, or whatever it may be, suddenly so many once important things fade to the background. Your whole world is reoriented. It is the reign of Christ that gives us the strength to endure with patience and joy because we know what it means to be brought out of darkness into light. We know the depth of the power of darkness and yet we’ve seen glimpses of the Kingdom.
We believe in a fullness of God that encompasses far more than the notions of kingship we inherit from American history in which kings are controlling and militaristic and maybe even corrupt and self-serving. Instead we read about a shepherd in Jeremiah 23 who gathers the remnant carefully and condemns the shepherd who does not care for his sheep. We read about a God in Psalm 46, who, despite creating everything around us, despite the ability to control the seas and bring down mountains, speaks individually to us and to the church, in a still small voice. A God that asks us to just “be still.” And the importance of that stillness is it reminds us we are not alone.
Parisians are not alone. Lebanese are not alone. Syrian refugees are not alone. Students across the U.S. on college campuses seeking justice are not alone. No one is forgotten by God even if they are forgotten and pushed aside by the rest of us.
I served as an interim pastor in a church that weekly recited the New Creed. It was my favorite part of each Sunday. It reads:
We are not alone,
we live in God’s world.
We believe in God:
who has created and is creating,
who has come in Jesus,
the Word made flesh,
to reconcile and make new,
who works in us and others
by the Spirit.
We trust in God.
We are called to be the Church:
to celebrate God’s presence,
to live with respect in Creation,
to love and serve others,
to seek justice and resist evil,
to proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen,
our judge and our hope.
In life, in death, in life beyond death,
God is with us.
We are not alone.
Thanks be to God.
The fullness of God in Colossians 1 is God reconciling the earth to God’s self. Making peace through the cross. We remember this ultimate act, this lofty, cosmic concept this week before we make our journey to the humble manger. It is in Christ that this fullness is revealed.
We remember that the one who has the power to create all things, control all things, master all things, chose to come to earth in the form of a babe. To offer us a hand in the Kingdom, a part in reconciliation and the salvation that comes in surrender. The fullness of God is the union of both these parts. The God on the throne above all things, and the God in the manger.
As we approach Thanksgiving, may we give thanks for the One who in all glory and power shows us the way to humility and grace through his sacrificial death on the cross. As we deal with our families, may we remember the One who loved us sacrificially and taught us to serve. And for many, who approach the holidays with loneliness or memories that bring sadness, may we remember the God that has power over the darkness and has brought us into the light. May our joy and thanksgiving give us strength.
As Julian of Norwich affirmed, “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”
Christ is on the throne. Christ reigns.
Photo by amandabhslater