This is the Sunday before the start of the Church Year. Advent Sunday and a period of waiting for the coming of the King precede the celebration of Christmas. Christians wait in the dark, for the coming of the light. ……
The Church has set three readings for the principle service on the Festival of Christ the King:
Daniel 7: 9-10, 13-14; Revelation 1:4-8; John 18:33-37
The world can be a very dark place.
It is difficult to avoid the darkness without pretending it does not exist. Some people close the curtains and put on the fire, others make their escape to warmer climes – Jo and I are just back from a week in the South of France. Increasingly people spend the summer in the UK and the winter in Spain. The shops throw themselves wholeheartedly into Christmas no more than weeks after the summer holidays are over. We don’t cope well with waiting, we don’t cope well with the darkness.
How do you cope – do you try to hide, try to escape, rush through the darkness looking for light and hope? How do you cope with the world as it is?
So many of us look for ways to avoid the bleakness of our world. And it is almost as though the readings for the festival of ‘Christ the King’ collude with our desire to escape the realities of our world, the darkness which sometimes seems as though it will overwhelm us. …….
Have you heard these before: “Pie in the sky when you die.” “Your faith is no earthly use, it does not affect the world in which we live, just a safety net when you die.” ….. And on “Christ the King” we listen to readings which are about that future – Christ in glory – and even Jesus in the Gospel reading says, “My kingdom is not from this world.”
For me, personally, at this time, having so recently lost my mother, these promises have substance. … Yes, I am sure of Mum’s place at home with her Lord. … And despite the tears, when she asked me earlier in November to pray that she would be able to go home soon to be with her heavenly father, I prayed that prayer with confidence and hope. We were both crying, but we both knew that it was right. She was on her final journey and she was going home. For her, the journey was taking longer than she hoped, but her faith was firm.
The question of how we cope with the realities of our world has exercised the minds of people down through the centuries. Some people have retreated from the world, retreated into closed communities refusing to partake in the life of the world – people like the Hamish, like some very closed monastic orders. Others have given up on their faith altogether, becoming fatalistic – “How can God care,” they say, “when we see all this going on?”
The literature of Daniel and Revelation (and some other books of the bible) was one of the ways that people of Bible times were helped to cope with the realities of their world. They are books which still today mean a great deal to church communities facing persecution for their faith. In their difficult language they grapple with the reality of the world as it was when they were written, pointing to the signs of hope in the world of the day and on into the future to a time when God will put all things right.
Our churches are increasingly welcoming people from other parts of the world who have faced persecution, who are looking to escape the darkness, who long to live in the light of the Gospel. These are people we have come to love, who while their asylum applications are being considered still live in fear of the darkness. We pray with them in hope.
We live in difficult times. Times when the darkness feels like it might overwhelm us. ‘In-between times’ – times between Christ’s first coming and a day when he will return – times when we glimpse God at work in our world but when we also see things which make us wonder where on earth he is. More often than not our media and, in we are honest, we ourselves focus on the negative, we see the darkness rather than the light.
There are good things going on in our world. We could call them “signs of the Kingdom.” But, in the end, we are still waiting for the fullness of God’s kingdom to come – the time when we will see for real, the whole of history enfolded in the arms of the God who created and sustains our world.
The readings for ‘Christ the King’ encourage us to believe, in the midst of darkness, that God is still Lord of History, that in the words of Baldrick off Black Adder, God still has a cunning plan, a plan which he will bring to fulfilment in due time.
Christ will one-day reign with obvious authority.
But these readings also encourage us to believe that God’s Kingdom is not just something for the future, that it is a reality now, and that it is something that we can work to bring to greater reality in our world.
How? … Through our faithfulness to the promise in the midst of darkness. We are called to faithfulness, to living God’s way, to being the people and the place where hope can be re-born in our towns and communities.
Ultimately, as Christians, we cannot flee the darkness or hide away from it or pretend it doesn’t exist. We’re intended, by God, to be the one’s who are able, with the eye of faith, to see Christ, the Crucified King, in all his Kingly Glory and who can help those around us to sense the light and warmth of God in their lives. People who see things from God’s perspective and help others to do the same. Not people who escape the world, but people who enter the world with hope, bringing light into darkness and despair.