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The Reign of the Lamb

And He went and took the scroll from the right hand of Him who was seated on the throne. And when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are You to take the scroll and to open its seals,

for You were slain, and by Your blood You ransomed people for God

from every tribe and language and people and nation,

and You have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,

and they shall reign on the earth.”

Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice,

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,

to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might

and honor and glory and blessing!”

And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,

“To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb

be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”

Revelation 5:7-13

Sunday marks the year’s end on the church calendar. That doesn’t apply to the everyone, not even to all Christians, since Christians in the East use a different church calendar. Likewise, different religions and countries have different calendars, as well, with the New Year beginning on their appointed dates and, generally, celebrated accordingly. But, inasmuch as this is written for Christians, particularly Protestant Christians (although certainly, anyone is welcome to read it), I just want to point out that, for us, the year ends on Sunday.

There is some marginal discussion about the location of Thanksgiving Day, whether it belongs to the end of this year or the beginning of next year. That’s actually a moot point. Thanksgiving, for all its Christian overtones, is an American holiday, not a specifically Christian day. Really, when is the last time you went to worship on Thanksgiving Day? I am all for Christians stopping and giving thanks on Thanksgiving, and on every day, actually, but its addition to the Christian calendar is an accommodation for American Christians. More importantly, the Christian calendar follows the saving actions of God in Jesus Christ, the cycle of Jesus’ birth, life, and death, not national holidays or commemorations. What’s interesting is that a great many churches will celebrate Thanksgiving on the prior Sunday, which also happens to be the last Sunday of the year.

Before we rush to the Thanksgiving, however, I want us to stop and ponder this final Sunday on the Christian calendar – Christ the King Sunday, sometimes called The Reign of Christ Sunday. The Christian year ends with Christ’s final and complete victory over sin and death. Stop and think about that… the reign of Christ, the King over all kings, the One Who was and is and ever shall be, the Alpha and the Omega, the Lord over all creation… The day closes the Christian year with the establishment of Christ as the King Who reigns eternally, the conclusion for which the whole creation yearns. We were born for that moment, for the arrival of the Kingdom that was inaugurated when Jesus defeated death and raised humanity into eternity in His ascension.

We live in the “in between” time. We are between the beginning of Christ’s Kingdom on earth, which began in earnest at Pentecost with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and the fulfillment of His Kingship upon His return. During the in-between time, we war against “principalities and powers of darkness” that seek to destroy Christ’s people on earth. Much of our own personal struggle and most of the conflict we see in our world are best understood as this ongoing battle between good and evil, between Christ and the evil one.

Christ the King Sunday is the day we are reminded that Christ has won and will win the war. The day proclaims the conclusion of human history, as well as the dawn of Christ’s reign toward which all history is aimed. Creation will be made new, and God will dwell with us, as described in Revelation 21. “He will wipe every tear from our eyes, and there will be no more death, nor mourning, nor crying, nor pain.” This reality on which we wait and for which we yearn is the source of every person’s expectation of receiving good, regardless of how good is defined. People want and expect to have happiness and good things, and that wanting is the echo, the shadow, of the image of God yearning for the joy of Christ’s Kingdom.

For every Christian - and, frankly, for every human being - the Reign of Christ holds both great promise and blessed obligation. The promise is all that is stated above: in the end, Christ is triumphant, and His victory is certain. The blessed obligation is that we live according to Jesus' Kingdom life, in Kingdom values and priorities, with Kingdom power and Kingdom humility. The whole of each of our lives – heart, mind, soul, and body – should lean toward the goal of the Kingdom, for that is our end and destiny. Today, our participation in Christ’s Kingdom is limited by the sin that darkens our souls and distorts our understanding, but one day, we will participate fully. That day is the day that Jesus Christ is revealed as King of all creation, and it is the day for which we wait in anticipation and longing.

Once each year is hardly enough to remind us of all that God has in store for us, but the Christian calendar makes sense. The year begins with preparing our hearts to celebrate the Birth of the Christ Child, as well as stirring our expectation of Christ’s return in glory. It ends with the celebration of the day when Jesus Christ does indeed return in glory, and the new heaven and the new earth are finally consummated. Christians are grounded in Jesus Christ when we live the cycle of His life every year, year-in and year-out.

In the midst of all this victory celebration, let us remember that the triumphant One worthy of victory is the Lamb Who was slain. Pointedly relevant to our moment in time, those around the throne of God were singing, “Worthy are You to take the scroll and to open its seals, for You were slain, and by Your blood You ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and You have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” The people of God come from every tribe, language, people, and nation. Identities that define us in this world fade to irrelevance. The true identity of every follower of Jesus Christ is Christian, a member of His Kingdom and a priest for Him in our world. To join the battle of identity politics is to reject our identity in Christ.

We need to remember that we follow the crucified King. To partake in His victory, we also must partake in His sacrifice and death. We must die with Him if we have any hope of rising with Him. In history and in some parts of the world now, this dying for Christ has been and is an inescapable reality. For all the rest of us, the death we face is the death of self – of me, of my, of ego, of whatever you wish to define as your own individuality.

As C. S. Lewis stated it in Mere Christianity,

“The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self – all your wishes and precautions – Christ. But it is far easier than what we are all trying to do instead. For what we are trying to do is to remain what we call ‘ourselves,’ to keep personal happiness as our great aim in life, and yet at the same time be ‘good.’ We are all trying to let our mind and heart go their own way – centered on money or pleasure or ambition and hoping, in spite of this, to behave honestly and chastely and humbly. And that is exactly what Christ warned us you could not do.”

The blessed obligation is this death of self. It is the obligation to live humbly before God, submitting to His purposes and will, forfeiting our own plans for the future and our own pursuits of happiness. All of these lead us away from the Kingdom and into endless searches for an elusive happiness that does not last, a fact we witness every time we watch or read the news, listen to commentators, flip through social media, or search online. No matter how much we attain or achieve, nothing is ever good enough. We always want something more because we were created for more. Thus, our obligation to die to self is answered by the blessing of rising to life in Christ.

Christ is the King of kings, and He is the Lord over all that was and is and ever shall be. One day, we will see His Kingdom come in its fullness. Until then, we are to live as citizens of that Kingdom, giving up the self for the glory of God and for the blessing of others. As we do so, the Kingdom of God grows within us, defeating sin as the Spirit dwells every more deeply in our being. Receiving life from Christ’s Kingdom grants us the strength and confidence to live victoriously and humbly in our world right now.

Whatever we see, no matter how loud the opposition, irrespective of the power of nations, the victory belongs to our God, the One Who created and the One Who rules the whole of creation.

In Christ –

Rev. Elizabeth Moreau


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