Celebrating Christ the King Sunday in the United States was unique this year, as we recently elected our next national leader, not a king but a president. The campaign season and the days since the election have been filled with behavior that cannot be called Christ-like. Even people who call Christ “Lord and Savior” have been guilty of nasty Facebook posts, dinner table offensives, and politicizing the church. To me and my churches, the celebration of Christ the King was sobering and called us back to a recognition that Christ rules over and above, and sometimes against, the powers of this world. Christ became a ruler for all people, ate meals with all kinds of people, healed anyone who came to him, and died for all people.
The priest Zechariah, father of John the Baptist, told a prophecy about the coming of the Christ King, in which he celebrates God’s deep compassion, the dawn from heaven, a light that will shine on those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide us on the path of peace.
This moment of prophecy is unique in that it follows 9 months of Zechariah’s complete silence. When an angel came to tell Zechariah that his son would lead people to the coming Savior, Zechariah said, “That’s funny. I don’t have a son, and my wife and I are pretty old. I think you’ve got the wrong guy.” For Zechariah’s doubt, the angel blessed him with a heightened ability to listen (he would be unable to speak until his child was born and given the name John). The words we read on Christ the King Sunday are the first Zechariah had spoken in 9 months.
It might have been nice to enjoy a few months of silence before people reacted to the election of the next President of the United States Donald Trump. If our reactions had been delayed, would we feel less regret? Less pain in the midst of differing opinions?
Zechariah’s months of listening were a time of preparation – the Holy Spirit made him ready to share the news of God’s deep compassion in the coming Christ. For Christians in the US today, listening is sharing God’s compassion. At a time when the people angry, hurt, and scared over the election results are equal to the people who are excited by them, we need to listen. People of Christ must take a chance on listening to people with whom we presume to disagree. Listening without judgment, without preparing our calculated rebuttal, is the ministry of Jesus Christ. It is the first step toward unity, even in the midst of disagreement.
In Jesus’ day, all kinds of people who should never have met each other did meet because they wanted to be near Jesus: Tax collectors and Pharisees, rich and poor, women and men, soldiers and prostitutes. Jesus brings people together and calls us to find unity across our differences. Even within the local church, we face disagreement often. That is why it is so important that we share the words each Sunday:
Christ’s peace be with you.
What does it look like to share Christ’s peace in your family? In your church? In your school or workplace? In your neighborhood?