A MESSAGE FROM REV. J.C. AUSTIN: CHRIST THE KING SUNDAY
This coming Sunday is the last Sunday of the Christian year; “New Year’s Day” on the Christian calendar is the first Sunday of Advent, which is December 1 this year. But it is not simply the last Sunday of the Christian year; on the Christian calendar it is known as “Christ the King Sunday.”
There are several Sundays throughout the year that are special observances of important moments in Jesus’ life and ministry outside of the major seasons of Advent/Christmas and Lent/Easter. There is The Baptism of the Lord, which focuses on the significance of Jesus being baptized by John the Baptist; there is Transfiguration Sunday, which recalls Jesus’ miraculous encounter with Moses and Elijah in which he was “transfigured” into a glowing figure of dazzling light; and Ascension Day, which remembers the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry when he ascended into heaven forty days after Easter in order to fulfill his promise to send the Holy Spirit upon his disciples, which we observe on Pentecost Sunday.
You would think the Ascension would be the end, though, since that is the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry. So what’s this about Christ the King Sunday? Well, it’s actually the most recently-developed of all these observances; in fact, it only dates back to the 1920s.
But that is part of why it is significant. Remember what was going on in the 1920s? Yes, the “roaring 20s” was part of it, with its economic prosperity and social and cultural dynamism. But it was also the time of “the Lost Generation,” those who came of age amidst the horrors of World War I, which shook Western civilization to its core not only because of the unprecedented scale of its brutality, but because of its pointlessness.
Forty million people died to fulfill a series of interlocking military alliances that were activated largely to defend national pride rather than something noble like opposing tyranny. The Lost Generation were those who did most of the fighting and dying in that war, and those who survived came away from it profoundly disillusioned and cynical about politics, faith, and modern life.
Christ the King Sunday was instituted after the war, then, not simply as a conclusion to the Christian year, but as a theological affirmation that it is not the kings of the earth who wield true power and determine true meaning in this world, but Christ alone, at whose name “every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.”
And so this Sunday we’ll talk about how this is a message of both hope and responsibility for us in a world where kings, per se, no longer rule, but where powers continue to claim authority while wielding division and destruction in the world. See you in worship!
Grace and Peace,