“For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.” Colossians 1:19-20 (NRSV)
Jesus, a king? The word king brings up all kinds of images that we would probably not associate with Jesus of Nazareth. Kings in Jesus’ day and often throughout history haven’t had a very good reputation. What we often think of (not always, of course) is of a monarch who is powerful, sometimes brutal, doing whatever he can to stay in power (the same could be said of queens, I’m sure). While there are kings who have ruled with compassion and were kind to their citizenry, there are many who lived lives in fear of being attacked, overthrown, or somehow losing their power.
That doesn’t describe Jesus at all. Someone asked at our Bible study on this passage (Colossians 1:9-20) why we have Christ the King Sunday anyway because Jesus as a king just doesn’t seem to fit with his manner of living and way of interacting with the people. As I have done a little research on this, I have concluded that Christ the King Sunday is a designation of the end of the Church liturgical year – a sort of “marker” or “segue” into the new year beginning with Advent.
The entire liturgical calendar year begins with the first Sunday of Advent which is a time of preparation for Christ’s return or arrival and follows the life of Christ throughout the year. So, we have Advent (preparation), Christmas (birth), Epiphany (visit of the Magi and reminder of the Light of God coming to us through Jesus’ birth), Jesus’ baptism and initiation of his ministry, calling the disciples, being Transfigured before them, Ash Wednesday leading into Lent, Holy Week, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost (traditional birth of the church), and then a long period of studying Jesus’ ministry and what it means to be a follower.
So, Christ the King Sunday comes as the culmination of all that. Yet, according to the Colossians passage, there is much more to it that just being a bridge for the Church’s calendar year. This is about Jesus, the incarnation of God. This is about God entering the world that God had created and becoming human as a way of identifying with us, interacting with us, learning about what it was like to be human, and ultimately dying, being raised from the dead, and returning to heaven.
Colossians 1:15 says that Jesus was the IMAGE of the invisible God, the firstborn of creation. Jesus brought us God-in-the-flesh and was part of the Triune God before all time. Verse 18 reminds us that Jesus is the head of the Church, and we, as the Church, are his body. Jesus took on the fullness of God (v. 19) and reconciled humanity to God’s self, and continues to guide and lead the Church even now and will in the future. Jesus is past, present, and future – always and forever the ideal “king” who reigns in peace and love and grace.
We are given the gift of this inheritance and along with it, the responsibility to be the hands and feet of Christ in the world. As the Body of Christ, we carry on his work in the world. Last week I saw a post on my Facebook page where Jesus and a young man of today’s world were sitting on a bench in a park. The young man said to Jesus something like, “There are so many bad things happening in the world today: wars, violence, sickness, and awful things. Why aren’t you doing something about them?” Jesus answered, “It’s funny. I was about to ask you the same question.” We have a responsibility to grow in faith and work toward justice in our world. We don’t need to be crusaders and perpetuate violence (whether physical or verbal), but we do need to dig in and work toward ways of building communication, offering compassion, forgiving those who have wronged us, and finding ways to reconcile and make new in the name of Jesus, the Christ.
It’s a challenge offered to us every day of our lives as those who seek to be faithful disciples of Christ. Especially as we move into Advent, may we build up the Body of Christ and keep our minds and hearts focused on where God in Christ is leading us. We have such tremendous opportunities! May we jump at the chance to make a difference for God in this world, starting wherever we have been planted.