Dec 9, 2014

Preparing for the end of all things

Valeria Sanchez
Valeria Sanchez, born April 16, 2012
Eight of the children enrolled in our preschool were born in 2012, the year the world was supposed to end. In case you have forgotten, the whole Y2K crisis was a big dud. Civilization did not collapse in the year 2000 because of computer malfunctions, so many people in the early 2000s convinced themselves that the end would come in 2012 because of an alleged Mayan prophecy.

The ancient Mayans were good at mathematics and astronomy, and developed an elaborate calendar system. Just as our Gregorian calendar begins a new annual cycle every January 1, and a new cycle of 10 centuries every 1,000 years, one "great cycle" of the Mayan calendar ended on the day that corresponded to December 21, 2012 (the winter solstice) on our calendar. For the ancient Mayans, that date only signified the beginning of a new "great cycle", as indicated the oldest-known representation of the Mayan calendar which calculates the movements of heavenly bodies millions of years past 2012.

But the idea that the supposed Mayan end-times prophecy would be fulfilled just before Christmas 2012 became so popular that a Hollywood blockbuster movie, simply titled "2012", was based on it. But the 2012 movie, released in 2009 and starring John Cusac and Thandie Newton, was directed by Roland Emmerich, the New York City).
Nahir Alexandra Mederos
Nahir Alexandra Mederos,
born November 1, 2012
same fellow who brought us "Independence Day" (extraterrestrial invaders nearly destroy the earth, but are thwarted by an Apple MacIntosh), "The Day After Tomorrow" (a new Ice Age sends North Americans fleeing over the Rio Grande into Mexico, ha! ha!) and "Godzilla 1998" (a giant iguana rips up

In fact, the world did not end on December 21, 2012. However, the end of the world is something that Christians should think about every years as Christmas draws near. The appointed lessons for the last three Sundays of every church year (in 2014 these Sundays were November 9, 16 and 23) deal with the Day of Judgment, the church triumphant, and Christ's second coming in glory as King of king and Judge of the nations. The church's calendar begins with the first Sunday in Advent (November 30 in 2014). The Scripture lessons for the second Sunday in Advent continue this theme.

According to the book of Malachi, chapter 4:  "For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.  But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.  And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the LORD of hosts."

Some may recognize this verse as the inspiration for a stanza of Charles Wesley's Christmas hymn, "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing":
Decorating the Christmas tree
Decorating the Christmas tree.

Hail! the heav'n born Prince of peace!
Hail! the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
Risen with healing in his wings
Mild he lays his glory by,
Born that man no more may die:
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
Glory to the newborn King!"

For this verse from Malachi is both a prophecy of the Christ coming first in humility and mercy, and a second time in glory and judgment. The season of Advent should be a season of preparation for Christmas, the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity as a babe in Bethlehem and also for His second coming as King of Kings.

Likewise, in last Sunday's Gospel lesson (Luke 21:21-36), we read: "And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring;  men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.  And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh."

Of course, our Gospel reading for November 23, the last Sunday of the church year (Matthew 26:1-13), warned: “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming."
So why does the Lord Jesus speak of signs in the sun, the moon, the stars and on the earth? These signs are not given to establish a time-table until the world's end, but rather to establish that, despite all the uncertainty and apparent disorder that we live with in this world, all is under God's control and history is unfolding according to His will. We do not have to know all the details of this plan, for we know that God already has won the victory for us in the death and resurrection of Jesus. The world will end, as our lives in this world will end, but neither will end in chaos and darkness, but in the light and hope of Christ.

For this Gospel reading highlights the difference between how believers and unbelievers view the end of the world. Unbelievers are obsessed with the end, both of the world and their own earthly lives, because they fear what will come next. They want to know how much time they have left to realize the maximum amount of happiness possible in this life before it's all over. They do not want to think about the end, yet they can't help thinking about it, thus the popularity of worthless end-time prophecies.

Christians, however, look to the future, however, with the expectation that "our salvation is nearer than when we first believed" (Romans 13:11-14). We know that our own deaths, or the death of the world, will only mean the fulfillment of our Lord's last promise: that when our lives here are done, we will live with Him forever in eternal joy.

During Advent, we prepare to celebrate the Lord's first coming, His continuing presence among us, and anticipate His second coming in glory. But that is what our entire lives are about anyway.
Sofia Silvera
We wish everyone a blessed and merry Christmas.

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