The kingdom of God is among you.
Believe it or not, the end of the church year fast approaches, which means that Advent—and Christmas!—are soon upon us, wherein we begin anew. And you’re thinking, “But we’re barely past Halloween!” In our over-scheduled world, life can seem a blur. The days race on by, and before you know it, we’re on to the next thing—ready or not.
The church calendar is meant, in part, to keep us ready. Not just ready for the next major holiday, but spiritually ready to savor the movement of God’s Spirit, refreshing us, slowing us down from our normally frantic pace to make space for God, anticipating God’s coming, not just on The Day that the Bible places at an unknown time in the future, but the every day of God’s coming into our lives moment by moment, here and now.
One of the signposts along the way is the Sunday we call “Christ the King.” It marks the last day of the church year. It comes in November as a culmination of our journey through the church’s remembrance of what God has said and done in times past and our engagement of same in our world today. And it comes as a hinge to a beginning again, the church’s New Year’s Day: the first Sunday in Advent.
But Christ the King is a hard sell, especially for us 21st century Americans. We’ve had it with Kings, ever since we sent George III packing in the 18th century. Despite one politician’s embrace of authoritarian autocracy, it just isn’t the American way. Nor should it be. Principally, because it isn’t the way of Jesus Christ.
Jesus came as a King the world had never known. His kingdom came as God with us, up close and in person, with all of the characteristics we know that God’s core essence is: love, compassion, kindness, justice, peace. His kingdom came with power—not over but from below. Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is among you.” And he lived it in all that he said and did. That was true back in the day, among those who experienced it in real time. He demonstrated God’s power right before their own eyes as he healed and taught and welcomed and risked in service of the One who sent him. Jesus brought the kingdom down from heavenly realms and made it real, starting in a backwater Palestinian village, and then to the world. And in the person of the Spirit of the living Christ he brings that same kingdom to anyone today who trusts in what he says and does as authentic expressions of the reality of God.
So there’s good reason to celebrate on Christ the King Sunday. Jesus came to turn kingship on its head. True kings don’t act on their whim, or in their self-interest, or for their own benefit. Christ the King acted with carefully chosen care-filled compassion, putting the interests of others above his own, willing to pay an ultimate price. His power was made manifest in humble other-directed love. No king had ever done that, or has since. But we only need one true King. By his teaching and with his example, we, too, can work together to bring his kingdom values to a broken and hurting world. With his encouragement, no matter how high the mountain we need to climb, we can make those values come alive in our world today, with the quiet strength of the living God undergirding us, with whom nothing is impossible.
Come to church on Christ the King Sunday, November 20th, as we remember, and give thanks, for the kingdom of God among us in Jesus Christ our Lord!
Grace and peace,