Today, as we in the United States of America move toward the celebration of Thanksgiving for all the blessings we have received, the Christian Church calendar moves toward a new year that begins next Sunday with the first Sunday of Advent, a short season that culminates in the great feast of Christmas. Today, then, finds us standing “on tiptoe” in expectation of the coming of Christ into the world.
At the same time as looking forward to the birth of Jesus, we pause to consider the mystery of God’s reign present now and to come at the end of time. We celebrate this reality today as the feast of Christ the King. It is significant that the Scripture readings for this feast speak of a king interested not in power over others but rather acting like a shepherd feeding his flock, carrying the lambs in his arms (EZ 34). This tender Shepherd is our constant companion on our life’s journey as Psalm 23, the great Shepherd Psalm, tells us. And the gospel of Matthew (chapter 25) lays out our role of responsibility in the kingdom of the Good Shepherd. We are to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty…knowing the edict that “as long as you do this for the least of these brothers and sisters, you do it for me.”
Psalm 23 and Matthew 25 are among the most familiar texts in the Judeo-Christian Scriptures, bringing first comfort and then challenge to all who are willing to pay attention to the message. They are the perfect “hors d’oeuvre” to bring to my heart’s Thanksgiving table, a motivation to love that may, if I stay awake, carry me all the way to Christmas.