The brutal fact is that in this Christian country not one person in a hundred has the faintest notion what the Church teaches about God or man or society or the person of Jesus Christ…Theologically this country is at present in a state of utter chaos established in the name of religious toleration and rapidly degenerating into flight from reason and the death of hope.
― British Author Dorothy L. Sayers, in Creed or Chaos?: Why Christians Must Choose Either Dogma or Disaster
PRAYER: (from the Lectionary)
Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule, we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.
SCRIPTURES: (from the Lectionary)
PRAYER FOCUS: Jesus Christ the King
Alert- you have only 36 shopping days until Christmas. Maybe only 35 by the time you receive this.
That’s probably not news to you.
In all the shopping malls and all the Big Box stores, preparations are being made to ring in the Christmas season in a very commercial way- with cash registers pinging and money tills jingling, filled to overflowing with sales.
The new controversy this year revolves around which stores will jump the gun, daring to open their doors on Thanksgiving Day itself. The old controversies remain– whether advertisers will mention Christmas, whether clerks will dare to wish shoppers a “Merry Christmas” or just a “Happy Holidays”, and whether there is altogether too much emphasis on Santa Claus in the Western traditions of Christmas.
It’s all about putting Christ back in Christmas, isn’t it? But that’s not a really new controversy. It’s been going on for well over a thousand years–at least since the Council of Nicea in the fourth century. And it was Santa Claus himself, no less, who made the point first.
This next Sunday, November 24, marks the end of the Christian Liturgical calendar for the year. It has become known as Christ the King Sunday, which is a festival proclaiming the divinity and the supremacy of Jesus Christ. Christ as King. Christ as Lord. While the Feast of Christ the King isn’t an old tradition, it is not an insignificant observance, for upon this point all of Christianity turns.
As this week’s Lectionary Scripture reminds us:
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. (Colossians 1:15-20)
The Divinity of Jesus Christ is by no means a new discussion. In A.D. 325 The First Council of Nicea debated and settled precisely this point. However, at one point in the proceedings, a Bishop from northern Egypt named Arius argued that Christ was not divine, but rather, was a mere creature as was the rest of humankind. The Council gave him the floor to make his argument, and he did so in a relentless flood of sophistry. A second bishop named Nicholas, a man widely known for his acts of generosity and kindness to poor children, grew frustrated with Arius’s words and thoughts. Nicholas stood up and punched Arius in the face, which stopped the heresy right then.
Now that’s one way of putting Christ in Christmas!
But that sort of violent confrontation was not acceptable to the Council, even in the fourth century A.D., and the outburst got Bishop Nicholas thrown into a prison cell to cool off. However, he was soon released, and he eventually became venerated as Saint Nicholas, from whose acts of kindness and selfless giving the legends of “Santa Claus” are taken.
Please do not think for a moment that the Arian heresy that Jesus was not divine went away in AD 325. We hear it repeated each time some well-meaning person tells us it doesn’t matter what we believe, as long as we are sincere. Or that Jesus was a great teacher, or a very influential rabbi. Or that giving to others is the real reason for the Christmas season. Or tells us we are bigoted, or worse, for claiming His Divinity.
If Jesus Christ is King, our lives should be about seeking and serving His kingdom.
In the words of the prophet Isaiah:
For unto us a child is born,
Unto us a son is given.
And the government shall be upon his shoulders.
And his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end. (Isaiah 9:6-7)
Christianity is about this amazing reality: That the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. That He died for us, and rose again that we may be reconciled to Himself.
Jesus didn’t do this because he was a great teacher or a great moral leader. He didn’t come to inspire St. Nicholas in acts of generosity or to inspire a holiday. Or to make us better people. He did it because he loved us. And because he is Christ the King.
It’s Monday Morning. Saint Nick believed in Jesus Christ the King. Do you?