Sometimes the richest traditions in our lives are those we carry forward from childhood: holding hands around the table to pray before meals, baking Grandma’s Christmas cake each Remembrance Day. And sometimes we add new, rich traditions as we grow.
For me, growing up in a non-liturgical church, one of the rhythms I’ve fallen in love with as an adult is letting my life be shaped by the church calendar. I love the liturgical calendar not primarily for its own sake, or for the sake of tradition, but because it helps to deepen my love of Jesus. It helps me hear his heartbeat of love, and let my own life be shaped by the annual reliving of his story alongside my own.
In the church calendar, yesterday was Christ the King Sunday, the final Sunday of the liturgical year. The Sunday on which we celebrate the end of the story—Christ victorious, seated on the throne, reigning with his father. Ruling the world with that just yet gracious love that our world so desperately needs. That I so desperately need.
I love how one week rolls into the next, how Christ the King Sunday and the end of the story will lead, next week, into the first Sunday of Advent, helping us begin to live the story again as we recall Christ’s coming as a baby while continuing to linger in the hope and confidence that comes with knowing that Christ is King.
The Arc of the Story (and why it matters)
History, Christians believe, is linear. Not a series of reincarnations, but a story starting “in the beginning” and moving through to “in the last days” and beyond. It’s a story written by the One who is both Alpha—there at the beginning, shaping worlds with his words and humans with his hands—and Omega, in whom everything will culminate and find its fulfillment.
And yet when this linear history is lived in the year-after-year circle of the church calendar, it encourages and comforts me, grounding me as I live in the sometimes uncomfortable space between the beginning and the end. As I re-live Christ’s story each year alongside my own, I’m reminded that:
- The beginning, the end, and everything in between are all part of the same grand story, shaped by the Creator who is both its beginning and end.
- It is a beautiful story, a story written by Love, in love, to help us make our homes in his love.
- As in any good story, there are times of struggle and longing as well as moments of joy. The struggle doesn’t mean the story is poorly written, or that it will end badly. Usually quite the opposite.
- Best of all, the Author of this love story has written himself into it, bearing the worst of the vulnerability and pain, in order that this One who is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, might gently, unfailingly, hold us through our own small beginnings, ends, and middles.
The Story in the Sky
As I start out on my bike this morning, the eastern sky is just starting to lighten, patches of peach and faint gold amid the dark clouds.
Moments in, the sky begins to fall, water droplets pinging off my helmet, sliding in dark, damp tracks down my waterproof pants. But the storefront windows to my west are tinted deep peach, then blood red, mirrors for the light whose beauty isn’t hidden by the clouds but enhanced, split into a thousand spots of glory and spread wide across sky and land.
It rains harder. I reach the end of my route and turn for home. And as I ride, face into the rain, a rainbow takes shape before me, rising through power poles, arching over homes and stores, coming to rest in some neighborhood somewhere, a promise that our King has not forgotten us. He is present, his face towards us, even in life’s floods.
The arc of color fades, clouds close in, rain falls harder. But it doesn’t matter. I’ve seen.
Rivulets running down my glasses, I ride past birches standing tall, their golden leaves flags of glory calling me to join their praise as they declare with the angels, “Holy, holy, holy, the whole earth is full of his glory.” Calling me to look to Him, the Author and the One who vows to complete in us what he has begun, bringing us deeper into his glory.
So then, friends,
“[L]et us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb 12:1-2)
Let us kneel, stand tall, bow in silence, sing aloud. May every act of our hands, every word that passes our lips be an act of worship, praising our King of Glory.