It's only a bit over a year until December 21, 2012. There has been so much talk about the Mayan calendar and the end of the long-count. There's also a lot of speculation that it foretells the end of the world through disasters, meteor showers, polar shifts and whatnot. I don't take it seriously; after all, I read somewhere the statement that just because our calendar ends on December 31 doesn't mean the end of the world. We just end up with another January 1. If I'd had to chisel all those intricate symbols into hard rock with stone and copper tools, I'd probably look for a good place to quit and end of the long count would seem like an appropriate place.
I remember as a kid there was, at one time, a lot of talk about the end of the world coming. It was frightening, terrifying even. The day it was supposed to happen I stuck close to home and Mama, jumping at every unusual sound and growing more and more afraid as darkness came and the end still hadn't come. Suddenly there was a clap of thunder and I nearly knocked Mama over by rushing over and grabbing her around the waist, asking if we were going to die now. She comforted me and we made it through the night, waking up the next morning with the world still intact. There have been a few more pronouncements that the world was going to end on this day or that, but so far we're still here.
Zechariah spoke to Zion and the postexilic city of Jerusalem, a city entering a new epoch in its life where the temple would be rebuilt and God's blessings would once more be upon it, bringing compassion, comfort and prosperity. The people had endured a sort of world-ending event when they had been conquered, Jerusalem and the great temple were razed and most of their leadership marched off to captivity a very long way away. Matthew tells of Jesus teaching the disciples about what will happen when he, the Son of Man, returns to claim his own. John's Revelation speaks to the Philadelphian church, praising them for their faithfulness and promising reward for continuing to be so. The second coming would be coming and it behooved them to be ready to give a good account of their constancy and dedication.
Some people today are constantly searching for signs that the end times are here, citing wars and famine, earthquakes and fires, abandoning the worship of the true God for a false one and failing to live in accordance with Biblical teaching. I've been around some Christians - good, decent, hard-working, caring people - whose denomination (and they themselves) spent a lot more time talking about and teaching Revelation and Daniel than they did the words of Jesus. While I think we should be awake, aware, and prepared, I don't see all the fuss about wars and rumors of wars because I don't think there has ever been a time on this planet where somebody wasn't at war with somebody else. The talk of increasing natural disasters being a sign that the end is near? Mother Earth has to stretch her muscles sometimes, and while you're stretching your abs, you might as well stretch the calves, shoulders, arms and all. Still, it behooves us to be awake, aware and prepared --- for whatever comes.’
Jesus didn't know when he would be coming back any more than we do, according to scripture. Still, he told enough stories about being ready for the eventuality. For people who live in areas where hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis or the like happen with some regularity, or where there is a strong possibility of such, people are reminded to make up survival kits with food, water, first-aid supplies and anything else they would need to get through what could be a day or two or much longer. Some do it, some don't. Still, being prepared is a good idea.
The season of Advent encourages us to be awake, aware and prepared for the incarnation. Next Advent, the Mayan calendar will run out. Which one seems to be the one to look for?
I'm going to prepare by getting more candles for the Advent wreath at the after-Christmas sales. At least I will know where the candles are -- if the lights go out.
Originally published at Speaking to the Soul on Episcopal Cafe Monday, December 12, 2011.