This coming Sunday is Christ the King Sunday, also known as Reign of Christ Sunday. It is the final Sunday in the Church Year.
All our hymns and scriptures will focus this Sunday on the theme of Christ’s gracious reign over us and over creation. Matthew Bridges’ panoramic text that begins with the words “Crown him with many crowns” (often sung to DIADEMATA) captures the glory and splendor of this feast. The first line comes from the Book of Revelation, Chapter 19, verse 12: “His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems.”
It stands to reason: a King of this magnitude, whose birthday is celebrated with an annual twelve-day feast* (Christmas), and whose decisive victory in battle is celebrated with a fifty-day feast (Easter), would not just have one crown on his head. He would be crowned with many diadems.
Sadly, Bridges’ panoramic text is often conflated with stanzas from a different hymn by a completely different author (Godfrey Thring). Here is Bridges’ glorious original:
Crown him with many crowns,
The Lamb upon his throne;
Hark, how the heav’nly anthem drowns
All music but its own:
Awake, my soul, and sing
Of him who died for thee,
And hail him as thy matchless King
Through all eternity.
Crown him the Virgin’s Son,
The God Incarnate born,
Whose arm those crimson trophies won
Which now his brow adorn:
Fruit of the mystic Rose,
As of that Rose the Stem;
The Root whence mercy ever flows,
The Babe of Bethlehem.
Crown him the Lord of love!
Behold his hands and side,
Those wounds, yet visible above,
In beauty glorified:
No angel in the sky
Can fully bear that sight,
But downward bends his burning eye
At mysteries so bright.
Crown him the Lord of peace,
Whose power a sceptre sways
From pole to pole, that wars may cease,
Absorbed in prayer and praise:
His reign shall know no end,
And round his piercèd feet
Fair flow’rs of Paradise extend
Their fragrance ever sweet.
Crown him the Lord of years,
The Potentate of time,
Creator of the rolling spheres,
Glassed in a sea of light,
Where everlasting waves
Reflect his throne–the Infinite
Who lives–and loves–and saves.
Crown Him the Lord of heav’n,
One with the Father known,
And the blest Spirit through him giv’n
From yonder triune throne:
All hail, Redeemer, hail!
For thou hast died for me!
Thy praise shall never, never fail
*If you refer to 26 December as “the day after Christmas” rather than the Second Day of Christmas or say “Christmas is over” anytime before 6 January, I will have to hurt you. You only get one day to celebrate your birthday every year: Jesus gets twelve!