Our church moves to the rhythm of a calendar. It’s been part of the church’s tradition stretching all the way back to the nation of Israel. And this Sunday, the church year ends as we celebrate Christ the King Sunday.
You may not be ready to make any resolutions heading into Thanksgiving and Christmas, but our new year begins with the Advent season. See, our church moves to the rhythm of a calendar, but if we want to be more precise we should say that it moves with Christ. We begin the year’s journey awaiting his coming (Advent), we trace the arc of his life (Lent) all the way to the passion (Good Friday) and the resurrection (Easter). We experience him in the coming of the Holy Spirit (Pentecost) and the institution of the church (Ordinary Time). And then comes Christ the King Sunday, when we celebrate together that Jesus Christ is indeed in control of this world now and forever.
As an event on our calendar, this feast day is relatively new. It originates only from 1925, when Roman Catholic Pope Pius XI saw nations, leaders, and laity beginning to lose connection to the Church and to Christ as Lord. This is just after the first World War, when there is a massive rise in secularism and nationalism, born out of an overwhelming sense of doubt and insecurity. In this context, it makes sense to set apart a day on which we remember that despite the chaos and uncertainty that surrounds us, we have a present and powerful king.
Anglicans have held a tradition for the final Sunday of the church calendar since long before the date carried any official significance. For the English, the final Sunday was ‘Stir-Up Sunday,’ so called because of the morning collect (prayer), which urges God to “stir up…the wills of thy faithful people.” The tradition holds that the language of the collect reminded churchgoers that it was time to stir up not just their wills but also their puddings in advance of the Christmas season.
Now, I certainly hope that Sunday’s service will compel you to bake something delicious over the next month or so (and who knows? maybe share with some of your church friends), but more so I hope that your heart will be stirred. I hope that you experience the presence of Christ in all of its tender mercy and mighty power.
May you live out this next year with the knowledge that our king is alive and he reigns. Join us this Sunday as we celebrate together!