“The Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines . . .he will swallow up death forever” (Isaiah 25:6-7).
Beginning with All Saints Day, the readings remind us of our mortality and predict war, disaster, and the end times. It’s enough to make us yearn for a savior or king—and we get both as the time after Pentecost draws to a close on Christ the King Sunday.
On the surface, not much good cheer. But buried beneath the darkness and death of November is the promise of resurrected life; an end to sadness and tears; the opportunity to give thanks for, share, and partake of the rich harvest of the earth; and a chance to renew our unwavering, confident trust in God.
As saints and souls—known and unknown—have been gathered into the heavenly harvest, we also celebrate the earth’s harvest gathered into the barns. Whether we are urban, suburban, or rural dwellers, we gather this month in gratitude for our many blessings, share with one another from our bounty, and hear readings that declare Christ’s presence with us now and in the fullness of time. Gradually, we inch toward Advent’s new beginnings.
Thanksgiving is a holiday that unites us because it isn’t faith-specific; it belongs to everyone. And yet it’s the perfect time for us to gather, often with others—especially other local faith groups. As people of faith, we can help bring this holiday that has become known for overeating and for signaling the shopping season back to a place of gratitude and grace.
On the heels of this secular United States holiday filled with Christian tradition, we bid farewell to the church year and as spectators are suddenly swept into hearing the encounter between Pilate and Jesus. It is in this reading (John 18:33-37) that we hear Jesus declare that his kingdom is not from this world; “truth” stands before us and before Pilate in the truly human Jesus Christ. Indeed, on this Sunday we are reminded that Christ is a king who gathers all the saints and whose reign is one of justice and mercy.
The future coming of Christ, in which he will take on “glory and majesty” is central to the gospel reading for the first Sunday of Advent. The end of the liturgical year draws upon these eschatological themes of Christ’s coming. The festival of All Saints, with its connection to the faithful departed, draws all people into the mystical body of the resurrected and ascended Christ, who has brought about life and salvation. Christ the King, celebrated the Sunday previous to the beginning of Advent, continues this theme of coming by focusing on one of Christ’s offices, that of king. Christ’s kingship is continued into Advent, Christmas, and the time after Epiphany as well.