The Sunday before Advent is often called “Christ the King Sunday.” If you Google that phrase and select images, almost all you’ll see are pictures of Jesus dressed up in royal regalia, wearing a fabulous crown. But the Gospels remind us that the only crown Jesus ever wore was made of thorns and used to mock him. And this week’s Gospel lesson reminds us that the only time he was ever called king, again mockingly, was while he was hanging on a cross getting executed as a common criminal.
It’s only with that anti-crown and from that anti-throne that he lives and reigns among us today. He does live, because the enfleshed life that God lives with him wouldn’t stay dead. And he does reign, because the power he unleashes in the world is the power of a love that will always outlast and exhaust any attempt to stop it. But this is no ordinary life, and no ordinary king.
The power of an ordinary king looks impressive for a while, but it always fails. Nobody today celebrates the real presence of Pilate or Caesar—any Caesar. We do celebrate the real presence of Christ, and that in itself shows that there’s another kind of power at work in our world that may not look impressive but that doesn’t fail. That’s the power of Christ, the power of God-with-us, the power of God’s enfleshed love that won’t stay dead even if you kill it.
When Christ is king, all our ideas of royalty get turned on their heads. Trains definitely do not run on time. But enfleshed love remains stubbornly undefeated. This is no ordinary king.