Setting the Spiritual Clock from Alpha to Omega and Back Again

Setting the Spiritual Clock from Alpha to Omega and Back Again November 21, 2020

Christ in Majesty (circa 1200); Creative Commons

Tomorrow many churches across the globe celebrate Christ the King Sunday. It serves as the last Sunday in the liturgical year. It was instituted in 1925 to honor Jesus’ supremacy and guard against the encroachment of secularism in every domain of life globally. Next Sunday, November 29, will be the first Sunday of Advent, which is also the first Sunday of the new Christian year. Both Sundays account for Jesus’ coming. As the Alpha who is the Omega, Jesus is coming again. We need to set our spiritual clocks and make sure our calendars orbit around him.

Everything comes full circle as the church calendar rotates around Christ Jesus from beginning to end and back to the beginning until he comes again. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He is the Alpha and Omega (Revelation 22:13; “Alpha” and “Omega” are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet). Jesus reigns supreme for eternity with the Father in the Spirit who invites all to come and partake of eternal life (Revelation 22:17). Various Christian traditions mark their calendars to highlight Jesus’ supremacy as revealed in Scripture and enhance public worship. Such efforts safeguard against secularization’s encroachment in the church’s life.

As I write in the introduction to my new book Setting the Spiritual Clock: Sacred Time Breaking Through the Secular Eclipse, we need more than ever

to set our spiritual clocks according to the Christian calendar, which circles the radiant Son as he breaks through the secular eclipse. Just as a total or partial eclipse may reset a species’ internal clock, so secularity resets our orientation to the world. Perhaps what is even more perplexing is that we are often unaware of this secular reset. While it is incumbent upon Christians to engage the surrounding culture in an irenic, dialogical, and nonsectarian manner, we must also make sure that as the church we focus our imaginations on the glorious Christ, around which the liturgical calendar rotates, as he breaks through the secular eclipse (Cascade Books, 2020, pages 11-12).

Many Americans prize Thanksgiving festivities and are already active shopping for Christmas gifts. May we who are Christians not permit any holiday or festivity, no matter how delightful, to crowd out Jesus in our lives. When other special events and days crowd him out, we have no spiritual means available to us to face extreme challenges like economic uncertainty, political and cultural volatility, and pandemic-inspired anxieties over our mortality. Rather, those very real challenges consume our thoughts and shape our actions. We must make sure that the vision of Jesus consumes our imaginations.

Here we can take comfort from the closing chapter of Revelation, where the church facing unimaginable suffering even unto death due to persecution set their eyes on Jesus. Revelation 22 includes these words of warning and hope: “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Revelation 22:12-13; ESV). Robert Mounce puts the matter this way in reflecting on the words “Alpha and Omega” set forth here:

In 1:8 and 21:6 it was God who identified himself as the Alpha and the Omega. Now the risen Christ applies the title to himself. Its meaning is essentially the same as that of the two following designations – “the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End” – the first of which Christ has already applied to himself in 1:17 and 2:8. The names set him apart from the entire created order. He is unlimited by time, and in that all things are found both in the Father and in the Son the attributes for the former belong to the latter as well (Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, rev. ed. {Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997}, page 407).

The various challenges we face at the end of this year are certainly weighty and must not be discounted. Still, we must place them in proper eternal perspective and not allow them to take away our love, joy, and peace. May Jesus’ eternal significance as the Alpha and Omega penetrate our darkness and eradicate our fears. Let’s set the spiritual clock to center on him. As Advent and Christ the King Sunday signify in serving as bookends to the church calendar, Jesus is coming. He is coming again!

My book Setting the Spiritual Clock: Sacred Time Breaking Through the Secular Eclipse was released in time for the Advent season. Here is a brief summary: “Various Christian traditions mark their calendars to reflect the biblical and ecclesial narrative and enhance public worship. Such efforts safeguard against secularization’s encroachment in the church’s life. Setting the Spiritual Clock serves as a guide and traveling companion for the liturgical year, which circles the glorious Son as he breaks through the secular eclipse.” You can receive a 40% discount by contacting the publisher directly at the email or phone number provided below in the flyer. You can also find on the flyer the endorsements. Please be sure to write/mention the Advent code “ADVENT20” to receive the discount (retail is $32; $40% brings the price down to $19.20). Click here to read the online sampler of the book. 

 

About Paul Louis Metzger
Paul Louis Metzger, Ph.D., is Professor of Theology & Culture, Multnomah University and Seminary; director of The Institute for Cultural Engagement: New Wine, New Wineskins; and author of Consuming Jesus: Beyond Race and Class Divisions in a Consumer Church and co-author of Exploring Ecclesiology: An Evangelical and Ecumenical Introduction. You can read more about the author here.
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