by Father Ted
It’s easy to get carried away thinking about what lies ahead. If you’re like me, you already have your Thanksgiving menu set and most of your ingredients purchased; you’ve got the first few weekends in December planned out, and you’re making bowl predictions for the rest of the college football season. But even if your planning doesn’t look anything like mine, there’s a good chance that you are already diving headfirst into the upcoming holiday season.

NB: If you still have a few openings in your “December Dance Card,” just take a look at all the amazing opportunities to worship, pray, learn, serve, and grow around here between now and the end of the year. Feel free to scroll right past this article to see everything that’s coming up this Advent. Go ahead: I’ll be here when you get back.

As I was saying, it’s easy to get carried away with what’s coming up. But as liturgical Christians, our calendar has a way of slowing us down and preventing us from getting ahead of ourselves.

This weekend is the final Sunday of the church year, the Last Sunday after Pentecost. We have been in the long, growing season between the Easter and Christmas cycles since the second week of June, but it comes to a close this weekend. There is a tradition among many Catholics, Protestants, and Anglicans of calling the upcoming Sunday “The Feast of Christ the King” or “Reign of Christ Sunday” or something like that. Episcopalians are of two minds about this: while it’s broadly understood around the Church, it is not a term found anywhere in the Book of Common Prayer. It’s the age-old battle of ecumenists v. traditionalists. (This priest prefers to stay above the fray and avoid choosing a side.) Whatever you want to call it, it is an occasion to remember that which is and is to come: the reign of Christ over all things.

Popular culture has a way of using the demarcation of years as a time for retrospection. Whether we gather around and sing Auld lang syne, remembering the good, ol’ days with friends and family, or scroll through social media’s countless “Top Ten Lists” of the outgoing year’s major events, we can’t seem to shake the desire to look backward and take stock of things which have already happened. But the Christian calendar forces us to do the opposite.

Yes: there are other times during the year when we look back. Consider the “Service of Lessons” at the Great Vigil of Easter. We sit in the dark and hear the story of salvation from the beginning, the actual beginning: Genesis 1:1. Then we remember God’s saving deeds in the Great Flood and at the Red Sea, followed by words from the prophets about the salvation that is to come. At every Sunday during Eastertide, we remember the fledgling Church as we read through the Acts of the Apostles. We spend a lot of time in church listening to things that have happened.

But this weekend, at the end of one year and the beginning of the next, we hear about what is to come. Now is a time to look forward. Yes, we still read about past events, but we do so with an eye toward what they prefigure. This Sunday, we hear the story of the crucifixion, but instead of focusing on Christ dying on the cross, we see Christ reigning over all creation from the cross, lifted above the earth with outstretched arms. After all, a crown of thorns is still a crown.

It may be tempting to want to skip over this part of the year, to hurry up and get to Christmas, or to remember how far we have come as God’s people, but the liturgical calendar points us in the opposite direction. We are forced to face the future. But (and if you were listening to my sermon last week, this is going to sound familiar) our task is not divination or fortune-telling. Our engagement with the future looks a lot like our engagement with the past: we remember both. We remember that Christ will reign over all things. We un-forget that Jesus will put all things under his feet. The fancy, seminary word for this is anamnesis. We make God’s saving deeds, past and future, available to us in the present. We practice anamnesis in our prayers, our preaching, our teaching, and above all, in the Eucharist.

Christ has died.
Christ is risen.
Christ will come again.

So, before we get ahead of ourselves and remember the sweet, baby Jesus in the manger, we must remember the King of kings who reigns over all from his sapphire throne in heaven. We must remember the last things first.

See you this weekend!

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