Today we are celebrating Christ the King, it is the end of the Church year…the equivalent of New Years Eve I suppose, and in it we have come full circle. The Christian year begins in Advent, as we prepare to welcome the Christ child, humble, vulnerable and cute as can be, snuggled in the arms of Mary his mother.
Emmanuel, God with us…who came to be our saviour and die and rise that we might live. But Jesus’ resurrection isn’t the last time we’ll see him. This day we recall Christ the king, whose second advent we will also be preparing for next week as well and this Christ is certainly not the vulnerable babe in the manger.
This is Christ the king, not veiled in human flesh, but dazzling beyond even the glimpse we have in the transfiguration. Dazzling and awesome, the Christ that is fully God, fully divine and at whose presence every knee will bow and every heart grow faint. “the Lord is king, robed in majesty; girded with strength, more majestic then the waves of the sea” We don’t think of Christ this way too often. It’s uncomfortable, it’s unnerving, it’s unfamiliar.
But this is Christ, the eternal God, co-existent with the Father and the Spirit. The more familiar figure of Jesus was a very temporary incarnation. A mere 33 years in all the time since the WORD spoke the universe into creation… and the only reason that those 33 years, the life span of one human could change the world eternally as they did, was because that human… was actually God.
God divested of the trappings we celebrate today. Robed in swaddling bands or crowned with thorns, rather than the robes and the crown of kingship.
It is hard to conceive of, this notion of Christ as King….Kingship is something foreign and distant to us, despite the fact that we ourselves live in a kingdom. (well…a democratic constitutional monarchy) Our kings, or Queen in our case, lives far from us and has little real impact on our daily lives.
However, in scripture the words kingship and kingdom have a much more tangible meaning. For the people in the New Testament Kings, emperors and thrones were very real and very much a part of everyday life.
At the time of Jesus, the Roman Empire had a physical and military presence in Jerusalem. Jesus was sent for trial to King Herod who ruled Judea with a violent hand, and escorted by Imperial soldiers to the Roman official Pilate.
During the time when revelation was written the Roman Emperor Domitian was heavily persecuting Christians and Jews for not worshiping the imperial cult, that is not acknowledging that the Emperor of Rome was divine. The kingdom of the world and the kingdom of God were in such opposition that proclaiming God’s kingdom could and would get you killed.
In our time the kingdom of God isn’t fought against….it’s just ignored…and that may be worse. We don’t think about living in a kingdom, we don’t care to think that our lives, actions are ruled over by God or anyone else. We operate solo, a democracy wherein my vote matters and I can cast it or not bother…as I please.
Yet our scriptures today tell a very different story. The author of Revelation makes it clear that the kingdoms of God and those on earth do not always live in concord and it also makes abundantly clear which kingdom shall and is prevailing.
Grace and peace from him who is, and was and is to come. Who IS, and was and is to come. The emphasis is on NOW…and that is repeated throughout. God is NOW, In the midst of persecution that Christians faced them… and in the midst of crises we face now. Time is immaterial, God is here and Jesus is here…Jesus Christ the king of kings… not only Jesus the comforter and healer. But Jesus is certainly among us I that role too, but Jesus the one who rightly rules all nations is here among us and is looking upon the earth overrun with despots and usurpers and I doubt he is pleased.
Jesus is the king of kings no matter who the ruling parties are, nor how poorly they rule, Christ is the ruler of them and they will be held to account. Along with each of us, because God has made us to be a kingdom, and that is to be taken seriously.
We have been given a privilege and a responsibility. The kingdom of God is absolute, but it is also participatory. We are not given a kingdom to sit and bask in the splendors to come, waiting for the day when ‘they’ will get what is coming to ‘them’. It is up to each of us to be active members of God’s kingdom…which rules over every aspect of our lives.
In our gospel today we read of the trial of Christ before Pilate, a roman official who has power, authority, and holds life and death in his hands. As we read, we find ourselves in the middle of an exchange…a discussion around kingship; that of mortal kingship and that of eternal kingship, or most specifically the origin of power.
Throughout the bible this is a common theme, will you rely on the power and authority of human kingship or the kingdom of God?
When we look at the world today, when we read the news I’ll admit, it is discouraging and it is easy to assume that God is simply standing by letting it happen. Or worse that God is actively permitting it to happen…or unable to stop it
What we recall today though is that Christ is doing something about it. That Christ has done something about it and will be coming again to set all things right. Revelations say is and was and is to come. There is no doubt that Christ, that God, that the holy Spirit have been working actively since the very first time we went astray in order to bring us home, back into relationship and back into wholeness. We see that in many little ways each day and on the grand scale with the life of Christ on earth.
But in advent we celebrate the coming of Christ, both at Christmas and as is spoken of in Revelation…Christ who is to come…coming with the clouds; where every eye will see him, even those who pierced him and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail. So it is to be. Amen. When Christ will come to put an end to all things that have gone so far astray, and establish his eternal kingdom.
The Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Christ, has a lot to working against it, but we are reminded throughout the next weeks that the power and authority of this earth is fleeting and deceptive.
The way of power in humility, strength in weakness, triumph through sacrifice and the way of love…. is the kind of power that will prevail. The power and authority of a kingdom not of this world.
The feast of Christ the King is celebrated on the eve of Advent as a way of reminding us where our priorities lie and how the Kingdom of God is lived out…here in this world and here at this time. As we enter advent and as we remember that Christ is King over all, we remember that he gave all that up to become one of us…and show by example how the Kingdom of God can be lived out…regardless of what other kingdoms may seem to hold sway.
May Christ the King reign in our hearts and minds and actions until that day when he comes in power to Reign on earth eternally amen