United Presbyterian Church of West Orange

"First Born"

Rev. Rebecca Migliore
November 24, 2013

Christ the King Sunday. 

The last Sunday of the Christian Year.

Thanksgiving Sunday. 

The Sunday before we gather together, with

friends or with family or with our TV set,

and eat and watch TV and this year shop —

       giving thanks for it all.

Christ, the first-born of Creation.

Christ, the first-born from the dead.


We Americans don’t know much about kingship—except for our fascination with the English monarchy.  We’ve never wanted a king. 

President Washington himself took great pains to make sure the leader of the new country

“the United States of America”

wasn’t worshipped,

wasn’t considered “better than” anyone else,

wasn’t given a life-time appointment.


So this Sunday when we proclaim “Christ the King” is something we shy away from.  And anyway, it most often coincides with “Thanksgiving Sunday” and that’s much more on our wavelength.


Paul’s letter to the church at Colossae knits the two together—Christ’s kingship and our Thanksgiving.  Paul rightfully points out that our thanks shouldn’t be so much about what WE have, who WE are, and what WE have done. 

Thanks is given to God.

Thanks because of our inheritance in Christ.

Thanks to be included in this new kingdom breaking into our world.


As we have travelled through the gospel of Luke this year, we have been reminded that this new kingdom, headed by this King Jesus, turns everything upside down.

       As Professor David Lose points out,

“We get a glimpse of the kind of king Christ will be in the story of the audaciously, even offensively generous employer who defies all conceptions of fair play by paying both those who have been working all day and those who labored just a few hours the same [wage]…

We get some sense [of how things operate] in this new realm in the tale of the father who humiliates himself again and again by running after both his wayward and legalistic sons. 

We get a hint of what will be expected of us in the yarn about the wounded man overlooked by the best and brightest only to be tended by the despised foreigner.”  (Dear Working Preacher, post1559)

Christ the King.  Christ our King.

Christ the first-born of Creation.

Christ the first-born from the dead.


When we sit down at our Thanksgiving tables, how many of us will hear in the recitations of what we are thankful for—I’m thankful for Christ.

What would it look like for Christ to be at the center of our thankfulness? 

Donna Schaper in her sermon “When Christ is King” relates these words of a Mexican immigrant from Los Angeles.

As a young child I always wondered why Santa didn’t deliver gifts to us in the way he did the well-to-do Anglo kids…Maybe he was afraid to come into the Barrio… Maybe he just didn’t like Mexicans or poor people.  Larry Gilliland, a poor white friend, didn’t ever seem to get much more than us…so maybe Santa just forgot us poor folks.  At least we had the homemade tortillas and tamales which Larry liked and we shared with him.  When you went back to grade school after the holidays, the class would have to participate in a show and tell, where students would talk about their Christmas…and show off some of their toys…one year it came to be my turn and I had nothing to offer…It had been a difficult year and my parents were not able to buy us much that Christmas… and so I told them that I had Christ, pure and simple, for Christmas.  And they all didn’t believe me.

Thanksgiving for Christ the King.

Thanksgiving for Christ, the image of the invisible God.

Thanksgiving for Christ, the head of the body, the church, the beginning.


The letter to the Colossians describes this image of a cosmic Christ—first-born in everything,

       Out there!

Yet next week, we will start the journey toward the birth of a baby,

born to poor parents,

born into an occupied land,

born almost “on the street.”

       When we proclaim Christ the King, this too is in the mix.  As is that sign “King of the Jews” at the end of a different journey, above not a stable but a cross, the ending of a life not the beginning.

       All of it is Christ the King.

       All of it is why we give Thanks, with gratitude,

for blessings from God,

blessings of God,

blessings of the first-born,

passed down to us.


       So Paul ties Christ’s Kingness and Thanksgiving together. 

But he isn’t writing an academic paper. 

He’s sending a letter to people he knows,

people who need to hear a good word

in the midst of the trials and tribulations

 of their lives.


This “Christ the King” isn’t just a one Sunday notion.  It is a rebellious stand in a world where Caesar was the only acceptable King. 


This “Christ the King” isn’t meant to be just a slogan.  It was a reminder of the enormous power on their side.


This “Christ the King” was a call,

 and a commission,

and a comfort. 


       Paul was helping them to remember

what they were thankful for,

why they were thankful,

to whom they were thankful.


       And Paul’s words to the Colossians are as meaningful to us, today.  Hear them.


       “May we be made strong with all the strength that comes from God’s glorious power.



May we be prepared to endure everything

with patience,

while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled us to share in the inheritance

of the saints in the light.


We are rescued from the power of darkness.

We are transferred into the kingdom

of the beloved Son.”


       So we give Thanks

              So we proclaim “Christ is our King.”

                     So we finish up the year,

                           Ready to start again.

       Ready to follow the First-born.

              Ready to watch for signs

                     Of his emerging Kingdom.

                           Ready to play our part.

                                  Knowing all the while

                                         Christ is at the center

       Of our Thanksgiving,

              Today and every day.



       May it be so.  Alleluia.  Amen.