The Last Week of the Year – From the Feast of Christ the King to Advent
Last Sunday we celebrated the Feast of Christ the King. The Gospel reading was from Matthew, speaking of the judgement of the nations on the last day. The King, a.k.a. The Son of Man, invites “the righteous” to enter the kingdom saying, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.” When they ask when they gave him this service, He assures them, “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers [and sisters] of mine, you did for me.” He goes on to tell those who are not invited to enter the kingdom that when they denied this same care to the least, they denied it to Him. (Mt 25:31:46)
At this time of global economic crisis, with millions of people facing financial troubles they never expected to see, and other millions finding resources that were never enough in the first place becoming even more limited, these words ring loudly. They are a challenge to all of us – those who have just barely enough, those who still have plenty, those who have not enough at all. How do we recognize the Son of Man around us and what do we do to reach out and help?
I suggest that we look at this time as one for affirmation of hope and trust in our King. We have a King who cares so much about all of us, who loves us each so deeply, that He was willing to live among us and share in all that we experience. He was willing to challenge unjust structures and interpretations of the Law. He spoke up for God’s “little ones,” however old they were, who couldn’t speak up for themselves. He insisted that we are all created for the freedom of God, a freedom that allows us to do what is right and good for those in need, without worry about whether it is approved by those in power or authority. A freedom that lets us give of the little we have to help those with less. A freedom that can lead to the cross, but also to the joy of new life.
In the United States we celebrate Thanksgiving this week. Churches, schools, even gyms have been collecting food for weeks to share with “those less fortunate.” Many will offer dinners on Thanksgiving for those who are homeless or have no one with whom to share a meal. It is a special time when we reach out to each other in care.
The outreach will continue through Christmas. Gifts will be collected again at churches, schools, banks, and gyms for children and adults who might not receive a gift otherwise. Food baskets aren’t prepared and distributed for Christmas dinner, but collection of food for food pantries will continue throughout the year.
Then one calendar year ends and a new one begins – with hope and expectation of better times to come. It will be a time of especially high hopes in this country, as we see the beginning of a new presidency. And I wish all the best to those who will govern us. It’s not an easy job in the best of times – and these are not the best of times!
But what do we as people of faith bring to the party?
As Christians, we begin our new year at the end of this week. The first Sunday of Advent is next Sunday. A new year. New hopes. New expectations. New dreams.
Let us together move into this new year with a commitment to hope, to service, to caring for each other. Most of us will not ever have the chance or the means to effect dramatic change in this world. But remember, the little things are the ones that can be HUGE for an individual or a family. A gift of food, a gift of a smile, a gift of a kind word, a gift of hope, a gift of time for a visit. All of these affirmations of the value of the other person help ease the burden of hard economic times. Jesus wants to live in us and through us. We are to be His face, His voice, His touch to those around us. And when we reach out in service, we reach out to serve Him. When we graciously accept the loving help and kindness of people who reach out to us as well, we receive His love as well as return it to them.
As we move from the Feast of Christ the King into the new season of Advent, let it be with hope, trust and joy. Our God is with us. The Kingdom has begun. “Whatever you did for one of these … you did for me.”
(Picture from http://www.2theadvocate.com/news/16945146.html in Baton Rouge, LA.)