We end the church year in an unconventional fashion: at the cross. Today’s gospel seems a strange capstone to the liturgical calendar, and that is intentional. This is because Christ the King Sunday is not a capstone at all, but rather a hinge that opens into the new year. We end at the cross because that is where we see most fully the great, culminating example of where God is willing to go to show love for humanity. We end at the cross because in the crucifixion we see Christ’s enthronement as the one that nothing, not even death, can destroy.
Christ’s kingship lies not in his exultation in glory but in his being raised upon the instrument of death from which God causes life to spring. The cross of Christ is the tree of life. But this life is hidden in what appears to be anything but life. Christ is not king because he conquers all in self-preserving might and force but because he conquers all in self-giving grace, and in doing so, he proves that he cannot be conquered even by violence.
Now we stand ready to step again onto Advent soil, where new life, hope, and possibility are germinating. We must remember, as we prepare to hear once again in the story of Jesus’ birth and life, that God’s glory is not found in power and might but in humility and sacrifice, in one willing to give his life for his friends, his enemies, and the criminal hanging beside him. That is the kingdom of God: that place where the friend, the enemy, and even the one rightly condemned receive the grace and forgiveness of Christ. For that, we praise Christ as king!
Devotional message and art based on the readings for November 20th, reprinted from sundaysandseasons.com.
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