Christ the King


The Feast of Christ the King is celebrated on the last Sunday in the Church’s Year i.e. the Sunday before Advent.  The liturgical colour is white, symbolising joy.  Common Worship also gives the option of red.

Throughout the year we have had reminders of Christ’s Kingship; for example, at the Annunciation the angel told Mary, “…of his kingdom there will be no end” (NRSV, Luke 1:33) and on Good Friday we remembered the inscription above him on the Cross, “This is the King of the Jews” (NRSV, Luke 23:38).  On Ascension Day we rejoiced that,

“The highest place that heaven affords
is his, is his by right,
the King of kings, and Lord of lords,
and heaven’s eternal light;” (1)

In fact, the hymns we sing throughout the year refer so often to the Kingship of Christ that we can almost fail to notice these references; for example:

“The advent of our King….” (2)

“Hark, the herald angels sing
glory to the new-born King,” (3)

“Born a King on Bethlehem's plain,
gold I bring to crown him again,” (4)

“Thou art the King of Israel,
thou David’s royal Son,
who in the Lord’s name comest,
the King and blessèd one…” (5)

“See from his head, his hands his feet,
sorrow and love flow mingled down;
did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
or thorns compose so rich a crown!” (6)

“Lives again our victorious King;
where, O death, is now thy sting?
Dying once, he all doth save;
Where thy victory, O grave?” (7)

“King of kings, yet born of Mary,
as of old on earth he stood,
Lord of lords, in human vesture –
in the body and the blood –
he will give to all the faithful
his own self for heavenly food”. (8)

“The King of love my shepherd is,” (9)

We know that the Kingdom of Jesus is very different from a worldly kingdom, as he himself made clear to Pilate, “My kingdom is not from this world.  If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews.  But as it is, my kingdom is not from here” (NRSV, John 18:36).  We can have some insight into the nature of Christ’s Kingship by considering his own words, “…the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many” (NRSV, Mark 10:45).  So we sing,

“Suffering servant, scorned, ill-treated,
victim crucified!
death is through the cross defeated,
sinners justified:”. (10)

(See also the words of Graham Kendrick’s The Servant King).

As we end another Church’s Year let us pray in the words of the Collect for the Feast of Christ the King:

“Eternal Father,
whose Son Jesus Christ ascended to the throne of heaven
that he might rule over all things as Lord and King:
keep the Church in the unity of the Spirit
and in the bond of peace,
and bring the whole created order to worship at his feet;
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Amen”. (11)

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