Thursday, December 20, 2012

The end is near - AGAIN!

HOMILY FOR THURSDAY OF THE THIRD WEEK OF ADVENT, December 20, 2012:
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Two priests were fishing on the side of the road one day. They thoughtfully made a sign saying, “The End is Near! Turn around now before it’s too late!” and showed it to each passing car.  One driver who drove by didn’t appreciate the sign and shouted at them, “Leave us alone, you religious nuts!”  The car sped by and then all of a sudden they heard a big splash.  They looked at each other and the one holding the sign said, “Maybe we should just write ‘Bridge Out’?”

Given that the world is ending tomorrow – at least according to the Mayans – I figured that was a good joke to start with.

The end is near.  This is a strange thing in our culture.  I think in my own lifetime how many times the end has been near.  My first recollection is when I was in high school in the 1980s and Haley’s Comet passed by which it only does every 75 years, there were those who thought the world was ending; of course at the turn of the millennium we had our Y2K scare with the same predictions; then just last year there was that guy out in California who predicted the world was ending Oct. 21, 2011 – maybe you saw the billboards and here we are again with impending doom.  Now it is already December 21st in other parts of the world and I haven’t seen any news items of destruction yet.  I suspect we’ll all still be here tomorrow and the next day.

But, the end is near.  The end of Advent.  Just a few days now until we celebrate Christmas.  And believe it or not, there is an apocalyptic dimension to what we celebrate.  We are all very good at the part of this season that asks us to look backwards – we look back to Christ’s birth 2,000 years ago and what that meant for the world – and rightly so.

But, this is a dual-natured season, one that looks backwards and one that looks forwards.  As we recall Christ’s first coming, we’re also called to look forward to His second coming; to His return.  We even pray it in the First Advent Preface, “When He comes again in glory and majesty and all is at last made manifest, we who watch for that day may inherit the great promise in which we now dare to hope.”

Notice that word at the end – hope.  The end is coming.  When?  Who knows.  And as a follower of Jesus we can also say, who cares?!  The end for us doesn’t bring destruction and death and calamity. The end for the believer brings the great promise in which we dare to hope.  The promise of a world made new; glorified in the perfection that only Christ can bring it.  The end is not a sad conclusion; it is a Grand Finale that leads to something greater, something better.

The birth of Christ 2,000 years ago told us something important – our God loves us and wants to be near to us.  Our God dwells with us and holds us close in our joys and in our sorrows; in our tragedies and in our triumphs and He came to show us the way. It is a way that if we dare to follow it will lead us all to the most glorious reality anyone could ever imagine.

And that’s where we find ourselves right in between the Christ who came and the Christ who is to come and we are being asked once again: Will you let that little child be born once again in you?  Will you welcome Him as did Mary and Joseph in the manger?  Will you follow Him so that He might lead you to Paradise?
My friends, the end is near…or not.  But we stand here together, united, in the presence of a God who loves and nurtures us and always wants to lead us closer to Him.

Merry Christmas and may the Lord give you peace.

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