From darkness to light…
Readings: Colossians1: 11-20; Luke 23: 33-43
Today is the last Sunday of the Church Year – and next week we will be starting the season of Advent – where we prepare for the birth of Christ in our world on Christmas Day – and his birth in our hearts. We have truly entered the season of winter; the season of darkness and we now await the coming of the light.
Today is also the last Sunday before we enter the last month of this decade! How time has flown and so I will just leave this thought with you – what have you achieved over the last decade!
In our chapel readings over the course of this semester in we have been following Jesus through his life. We have heard the stories that his friends wrote down in the Bible about the things that he said and did.
But do you know there is one thing that they didn’t tell us about Jesus – does anyone have any ideas about what that is?
They didn’t tell us what Jesus looked like.
The gospel writers didn’t tell us anything about his hair colour, his weight, his eyes, his skin, or anything else.
Today we have many pictures of family friends and random stuff on our phones but no one had cameras on their phones or even phones two thousand years ago – and no one that we know of drew a picture of him.
What do you think that Jesus looked like? Another question to ponder.
Was he tall or short?
What colour do you think his eyes were – blue or brown?
Was he skinny, or more like me?
Just as we don’t have pictures of Jesus that tell us what he was really like – so none of us have ever seen God — but we do have a good idea of what God through Christ is like.
Today’s reading from the letter of the Apostle Paul says that “Christ is the Visible Image of the Invisible God”.
That means seeing what Jesus is like helps people see what God is like.
But since we don’t know what Jesus really looked like physically, what Paul must mean is that Jesus shows us what God is like through his words and actions. So What kinds of things did Jesus do?
That is what God is like — If you want to know what God is like – listen to what the bible says about Jesus – and you will know him as well as anyone possibly can.
But as opposed to the Advent and Christmas image of Christ as a baby boy, today’s image of Christ that we are given is one of A king.
A king, a messiah who was given claim to that title on a wooden board placed above is head as he slowly painfully suffocated to death on the cross on that first Good Friday many decades ago.
Now Christ the King was give his title on the day he died by the man given the option to reprieve him or murder him. But the title for our Christ the King Sunday was created fairly recently in 1925 in fact -by Pope Pius XI, and it entered into the Protestant Church during the nineteen-60s. And why did Pope Pius XI create this Sunday and suggest the readings that we have just heard?
Quite simply because the church needed the image of Christ the King at that moment in time. And perhaps on reflection we too need this image as well in our place and in our time.
On its first celebration, Mussolini had been the leader of Italy for three years; and a rabble-rouser named Hitler had been out of jail for a year.
Hitler’s Nazi party was growing in popularity, and the world lay in a great Depression: a depression that would become far worse over the next fifteen years.
In such a time, Pius XI asserted that, nevertheless, with all of those new dictators and false values in the world, Christ is King of the universe. He is the light in times of great darkness.
The feast of Christ the King, then, was – and is – basically a language thing, a symbol, a metaphor, designed to be a statement of life’s fundamental question for broken times such as ours.
Because what Jesus provides us today with is an an image of royalty totally different from the world’s image of royalty and the expectations therein.
His is a total reversal of roles usually assigned to royalty and servitude. He refuses to be master of the world, the mighty monarch, the spiller of blood.
Rather he is a king who serves others. He is the king who dies for others.
He is the king who is ridiculed, scorned and mocked.
He is the king who is described in the Book of Revelation – not as a lion – the usual image for a king, but as a lamb – a crucified lamb upon a throne, with sword coming from his mouth by which he smites his enemies.
Jesus came and overcame death, sin and evil by his words, by his doings by being human and loving and healing and helping all those who came into his line of sight.
To show what an impact Jesus’ revolutionary concept of royalty has had upon our world and our nation, in the Robing Room at the Palace of Westminster.
The place where the Queen prepares herself before the opening of her parliament, there are five massive frescos done by William Dyce that personify what Christ’s royalty is all about.
The frescos are there to remind the reigning monarch what lies at the heart of being a successful and faithful king or queen.
They are there to remember that only light can shine and dispel the darkness within our world and that we need leaders who will act justly and lead mercifully to do so.
For there on the walls for our queen to pray and meditate are images of Hospitality, of Generosity, of Religion, of Courtesy and of Mercy.
Each fresco depicting images from the court of King Arthur and of Jesus showing these crucial elements which make up the light as being at the heart of all who seek to rule.
We may not know what Jesus looks like but through these qualities we know now who he was and what he stood for and by that we therefore know God. From darkness into light.
Jesus lived and died and rose again. He reigned then and he reigns now with those elements of Kingship that he asks for all of us to emulated. Love, compassion, generosity of spirit, hospitality, mercy and courtesy.
These beautiful qualities are ones which we ourselves should uphold and live out as we seek to become as Christ in our own lives.
We do not have to be royalty to do so, we simply have to follow the one who guides us and who loves us and knows us better that we know ourselves.
Each of us can be a king or queen in the heart of Christ by following his example. As we prepare our hearts and minds over the next four weeks of Advent, let us remember these qualities and embody the light by following them in our daily lives.
May Christ the King be with you this week and always be first to reign in your hearts.