Christ the King

Written by Sarah Streitwieser

Celebrated on the final Sunday of the liturgical year, I imagine the Solemnity of Christ the King as sort of New Year’s Eve celebration – the current year’s way of “going out with a bang” before the next year takes its place. It is like an exclamation point, punctuating the year.

The Solemnity reminds the faithful that Christ reigns as King over all things for all time. In overly-simplistic terms, the Solemnity invites us to encounter “Big Jesus“ in full-scale power and beauty. 

Moments when Christ’s Kingship is explicitly revealed are very important in the telling of our stories. In my own story, Christ the King first revealed himself to me in my late teen years, when I was captivated by a sense of Jesus calling. Years later he revealed himself through the process of falling in love with my husband. Not long after that, Christ the King welcomed us into His Church (in the appropriately named “Christ the King” parish in Little Rock, Arkansas!).  Still years later, Christ the King formed our family through the miracle of adopted twins.

The Solemnity of Christ the King invites us each to recount our personal “spiritual mountain-top” experiences. Christ the King invites us to know him personally as the King of our own selves and circumstances.  But, perhaps there is some error in only seeing and knowing Christ through this lens.

The Church, in her Liturgical wisdom, juxtaposes the Feast of Christ the King against the first Sunday of Advent. If the Solemnity of Christ the King calls the faithful to worship “Big Jesus,” then the season of Advent calls us to adore “Little Jesus.” During Advent we are invited to encounter Jesus in utter humility – not as a man, or even as an infant, but as the tiniest form of human life, gestating in his mother’s womb. He is perfect love, giving without forcing.

Unlike the booming tone of exclamation marks, Advent-Jesus is so small he could easily be missed. He does not make himself obvious; encountering him takes patience, repetition, and silence. He whispers to us in the seemingly mundane chores of daily life, in the self-giving, labored-love that our vocations require. He encounters us in daily routines and ordinary occurrences. He is hidden and quiet, small but growing, making his Advent within us. 

Christ the King fills our hearts with songs of praise and celebration; Christ-gestating invites quiet contemplation and wonder. Truly, Jesus is not one or the other, but both – all at all times. We are invited to love him in every expression and every season – to sing the bold melody of his grandeur and hum the quiet intimacy of his friendship.  Christ the King is reigning while Advent-Christ is gestating, quietly growing within our hearts. 

Jesus, make us both big and small enough to love you.  Stretch our hearts and minds so that we do not limit you, so that we might know and venerate you as King.  Shrink our pride and egos so that in humility we might share your friendship. Draw us to yourself in the grandeur of your kingship and in the quietness of your Advent.