Monday, November 30, 2009

Advent 1 - Year C

While I haven’t yet seen it, the new movie 2012 is built around the ancient Mayan Prophecy that the world will end on December 21, 2012, which is said to be the end date of the 5,125-year-long Mayan Long Count calendar of one age and the beginning of another.

While the Mayans were long on math, they were short on details. Leaving many scientists to believe that the calendar doesn’t predict the end of life on this planet. But it simply marks a turn of the calendar. No different from when we change the cute 2009 calendar with the cute puppy 2010 calendar.

But that doesn’t stop the doomsday sayers. End of the world prophecies are VERY popular. They’re romantic, even sexy. They provide drama to a boring life. Power to an insignificant life.

After all, what is more important than the end of all things, the destruction of the planet, the finale to all existence? And if we have some inside information, we possess knowledge that most people don’t have. Giving us a sense of power.

2012 doomsday advocates don’t have to look far for support that the world will end some day. Today’s gospel provides some pretty heady predictions that sends the heart racing of everyone worried about whether the world will end by next commercial break. Jesus says that all we have to do is look at the signs:

“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves,” Jesus warns. “People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

Now THAT would make a great movie!

I get why people are drawn to apocalyptic doomsday predictions. Especially when we feel we're on the winning side of a cosmic battle.

People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken,” Jesus warns. Of course, he's NOT referring to US! Is he? After all, we're the good guys, the faithful Christians who do gospel work. Certainly Jesus will spare us from the doom just under the over pass...

It's almost a Christian tradition to predict the End of All Things. We confess in our creeds that “We believe that he will come again to judge the living and the dead.” So, it's not as if we're pulling this from our collective noses.

But for some Christians, the End of the World and Jesus' so-called “Imminent Return” is the centrepiece of their faith. You've probably seen these guys on TV. Christian talking heads who say that Jesus is on the brink of gracing this planet once again. That the clouds will open and Jesus, astride his trusty steed, will brandish his sword of righteousness against all evil-doers. So, we better be on our best behaviour because this is going to happen AT ANY MOMENT; leaving death and destruction in his wake.

However, the problem is, the “Imminent Return” theology has been around for thousands of years. Every generation does the calculations and believes that THEY or WE are the final generation and will see with our own eyeballs, Christ return in glory, to punish the wicked and lift the righteous to heaven. And this is going to happen by the time you finish your breakfast.

But at what point does “imminent” cease to be “imminent”? If Jesus is supposed to come back the day after tomorrow, and we've been saying this for 2000 years, then maybe we have to re-evaluate what he was saying. Like a dog panting at the door waiting for the master to return, maybe we need to get comfortable on the couch, because it might be a while.

That doesn't stop folks from flipping through the bible while watching endless loops of Fox News, connecting events and people with biblical prophecies. Jesus has to come back SOMETIME, right? So why wouldn't it be TODAY? After all, don't we live in the worst time in history?

Again, ever generation thinks that their's is the height of moral failure and human cruelty. Every generation believes that the human species can't sink any lower, and so the end of history is within their grasp. Every generation looks at the state of the world and sees it as the worst that humanity has to offer.

Those Jesus was talking to certainly believed that. As did those who Luke wrote to decades after. Jesus told them, “Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. “

They expected the world to burn itself out. They saw terrible tragedy; Rome destroying Jerusalem killing thousands of Jews; the temple burned to the ground; God's people scattered all over the known world.

And yet, no Jesus. They fainted in fear. But did not see God's Son arrived in glory. They saw only pain and tragedy. They saw their world disintegrate.

No Jesus. No shining sun. No glory. No standing with heads and hands raised.

People just went back to their lives wondering what went wrong. And there weren't a shortage of people to tell why Jesus didn't come back.

“You're too sinful.”

“You're too immoral.”

“The world isn't ready.”

“People don't have enough faith.”

Redemption as reward. Forgiveness as merit.

But a better way of seeing what happens is that the world will always have pain and suffering because pain and suffering are birth pangs of a new world that God is giving birth to. Jesus say to keep alert to the signs of the kingdom of God. I don't think he just means the End of All things, but the Kingdom that has already come in Jesus. Keep your eyes open to what God has done and is doing. Keep watch for God's kingdom of peace, forgiveness, justice, and life. Because it's all around us.

Keep your eyes open for the kingdom in the corner. Keep your eyes open for the hope that surrounds you hiding. Keep your eyes open for the New Day that Jesus promises.

To understand what Jesus is saying is to hear his words, not from the perspective of death, but with resurrection eyes. Our lives will have pain. We will have sorrow. We will feel like the weight of death will crush us.

But there is also resurrection. There is also new and everlasting life. There is also the New Creation that began that day when Jesus walked out from the tomb of sin and death, alive, breathing forgiveness and healing, until that Day arrives when there will be no more sorrow, no more pain, no more death.

And may this be so among us. Amen.


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