The end of a year is usually a time for looking back, remembering and reflecting. What have we experienced? What have we learned? What should we commit ourselves to in the future?
The secular calendar ends on 31st December, but the church calendar finishes the year on the Feast of Christ the King, which falls this weekend. Advent and Christmas, which mark the end of the year in the world around us, stand at the beginning of a new year in the Christian way of reckoning.
All of this is important, and never more so than this year.
Each year the church re-tells the story of salvation, of God’s redeeming work in human history. We end with the bit that hasn’t happened yet; Christ’s triumphant return, the reconciliation of all things, and the establishment of God’s kingdom for all eternity. The end of the year and the end of history thus sit side by side – we are reminded this weekend of the final destination.
For those who love him, this is a wonderful promise, one whose fulfilment we long for from the depths of our hearts as we pray with Saint John, ‘come soon, Lord Jesus’. We know at gut level that only Christ’s return as rightful King can establish peace, justice and freedom. What we sometimes forget, however, is that the marks of Christ’s kingdom are the same as those of his birth, passion and resurrection. ‘The head that once was crowned with thorns is crowned with glory now,’ says the (should be mandatory) hymn. The humility of the manger, the priority for the marginalised shown by it, the service of others demonstrated in his earthly ministry, the wounds of his suffering and death… these are not mistakes but rather the signs in which we read the essential character of Christ’s authority.
Next week, we start again. We return to beginning of the story, as humanity recognises its need of God and cries out ‘Oh that you would tear open the heavens and come down!’ But this week, on this Sunday and in the days that follow it, we remember the year past, and we reflect on what we have experienced and learned in the light of the knowledge that God is in Christ reconciling all things to Godself under the Lordship of that same Christ.
This is the same every year, but this year it seems especially so, as our Parish and Diocese move forward into new chapters and as we gradually learn to live with the deep wounds of the pandemic. May God draw us ever closer to one another even as we are drawn ever closer to God in Christ, and may God bless you all,