SUNDAY NEXT BEFORE ADVENT
Not all new ideas are bad, and we have an excellent new idea in the feast we celebrate today. Prayer Book entitles the “Sunday Next Before Advent.” The Prayer Book readings almost invite such an observance, as the Lesson from Jeremiah predicts a wonderful king yet to come, and the Gospel from John 6 stops just short of the text (John 6:15), “When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him king, he departed again..” is less than a century old. Originally appointed for the last Sunday in October (the Sunday before ), it has come to be celebrated on the final Sunday of the liturgical year, which our
In a time when few earthly kings are left and those few are only figureheads, the message of Jesus' royal office is relevant and powerful. We are more familiar with the picture of the weak and timid Jesus, knocking piteously at a bolted door, than we are acquainted with the icon of Jesus in royal robes. But King Jesus is no figurehead, as much as our democratic notions of morality and society might try to demote Him.
How is Jesus a king? A classic definition of His royal office states, “Christ executeth the office of a king in subduing us to himself, in ruling and defending us, and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies.”
Christ became king over all things when He ascended into heaven, to be seated “at the right hand of the majesty on high.” His kingship is both future (when He shall finally subdue all things to Himself) and present (as He is already reigning in our hearts and lives).
Do not forget that He is already king, reigning now. In the spread of the Gospel throughout the world and in the resulting transformation of society, we are bound to see the present reign of Christ. When we take a short view of things, then “change and decay in all around I see,” and we can only lament a world falling apart. But when we compare our world to that in which Jesus was born two millennia ago, then we are bound to acknowledge the power and reality of His victory. When we take a longer view, we must acknowledge real progress in the social order. That progress, every bit of it, has its origin in the gentle reign of Christ. So we cease to lament and begin to rejoice.
In that classic definition, three components of Christ's kingship are listed. Surely the most important of the three is the first, “subduing us to Himself.” Hardly ever do sinners embrace the kingship of Jesus gladly. We must be subdued, conquered, pacified, brought under His control. We ourselves must be restrained and conquered, by the power of His love. Come, Jesus, and reign in us! Thy kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven! LKW