Yes, to be sure, it’s like missing the awesome conclusion of the great drama of human history! What’s missing? Let me bring you back to a piece of church history. Somewhere back in the mists of the church’s life, there emerged something of an annual pattern of reminding itself of the great events of the life and ministry of Jesus, known as the liturgical year. That annual pattern begins with the celebration of Advent and Christmas (the birth of Christ), then on the 12th day after Christmas begins the celebration of Epiphany (when the star appeared to the oriental wise men). This period is followed by the Season of Lent (which records the passion and death of Jesus).

Then, the great celebration of hope: Easter (in which Jesus triumphs over death and the grave in his resurrection from the dead. Easter is followed by the celebration of Pentecost: the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the infant church. (To insert here, my own sense that this also is a much overlooked and under-rated celebration, and deserves more attention from the church, since the whole Christian enterprise in the world is totally impossible, humanly, apart from the supernatural empowering by the Spirit.)

Pentecost is followed by the months-long observance which is entitled: the liturgical season of Trinity, which ordinarily begins right after Pentecost and ostensibly continues up until the conclusion of the liturgical year. . ..  Now stay-tuned for what should be that awesome conclusion. What should be the consummation of such reminders? It was only in the mid-1920s (according to my sources) that Roman Catholic Pope Pius XI declared that the conclusion of the liturgical year should take place the Sunday before the beginning of Advent, at the conclusion of the liturgical year, and be entitled: The Celebration of Christ the King. It only makes sense. The consummation of our Christian faith is that “Jesus shall reign where ‘ere the sun, doth it’s successive journeys run,” as the hymn so beautifully states it. It celebrates that fulfillment of human history when Jesus “shall have put all his enemies under his feet, and the last enemy to be destroyed is death . . . that God may be all and in all” (I Corinthians 15: 24-28).

Without such a fulfillment, such an awesome conclusion, the celebration of the life and ministry of Christ is like a book without a conclusion, or a mystery without an answer. So, then, following the pope’s declaration, not only Roman Catholics, but Anglicans, and most main-line Protestant traditions adopted the Celebration of Christ the King as the grand conclusion of their liturgical year.

Having said that, however, it needs to be acknowledged that almost no one actually even knows that it exists. It is seldom celebrated, even in communities that otherwise follow the liturgical year. It gets buried in the uninhibited consumer culture, and frenzy of football fever that comes along with and after the Thanksgiving observance. So, allow me to lift my voice in protest.

This coming Sunday, November 26th, is the Feast Day of Christ the King. I want to rejoice in the reality of my faith that Jesus Christ is Lord, and that given all the chaos of human history, I (and we) are not primarily citizens of any earthly nation, but are primarily citizens of the Kingdom of Our God and of His Christ. We are fellow-citizens with all of those in whom God dwells through Christ. We are those whose great anticipation, by faith, is that day when the heavens open and we behold a white horse! “The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. . .. He is clothed in a robe, and on his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19: 11ff.).

Pull out all the stops. Lift up your voice. This is the consummation of God’s New Creation when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Yes, and Amen!

About rthenderson

Sixty years a pastor-teacher within the Presbyterian Church. Author of several books, the latest of which are a trilogy on missional ecclesiology: ENCHANTED COMMUNITY: JOURNEY INTO THE MYSTERY OF THE CHURCH, then, REFOUNDING THE CHURCH FROM THE UNDERSIDE, then THE CHURCH AND THE RELENTLESS DARKNESS. Previous to this trilogy was A DOOR OF HOPE: SPIRITUAL CONFLICT IN PASTORAL MINISTRY, and SUBVERSIVE JESUS, RADICAL FAITH. I am a native of West Palm Beach, Florida, a graduate of Davidson College, then of Columbia and Westminster Theological Seminaries.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Frank A. says:

    Bob, Christianity Today used to occasionally put out an issue they called “ring the bells” This piece does that!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge