The Music of Doomsday

This week we bring to a close the Christian year, Advent being the beginning of the new cycle. The Sunday before Advent is celebrated in modern lectionaries as “Christ the King,” which is a fitting commemoration to the end of a cycle; but the older observance, still known in parts of the Anglican Communion as “Stir-up Sunday” for the first words of its proper collect, retains an urgency and necessity otherwise lacking. On this very last Sunday we face the very last things: judgement, separation, and annihilation. We will hear our Lord’s words about the sheep and the goats and our failures to care for the least of his brethren. As he said elsewhere, “Fear God who is able to destroy both body and soul.” Without these bold and terrifying eschatological prophecies, which so clearly show us the power of the law and the problem of sin, the glory of the solution in the Gospel is diluted, and the Advent journey towards new life has no clear starting point. Shying away from these difficult parts of Scripture does no one…