Apocalypse Again

Apparently it’s all over. No more Mayan Calendar. You won’t find next year’s edition in WH Smiths. Their technicolor, all star, celebrity 2013 Calendar won’t be on sale in Tesco. The Mayans stopped after today. Which means that some people believe it’s the end of the world. Bam! No more Eastenders, McDonalds, Cash in the Attic or speed cameras. The race for the Christmas number one is over – it won’t be either James Arthur or the Justice League. Just radio silence. As a result lots of people have been gathering in Mexico and other places to witness the event. Some predict fire and flooding. (No comment on the flooding front.) There has been a rush to buy candles in China and tinned food in Russia. In other places some have prepared pods to live in, others plan to escape to the mountains.

When the Roman Empire went into decline and barbarians were at the gates people predicted the end of the world then. Civilization as they knew it was crumbling. It was all over. They expected the mouths of volcanoes to open up and swallow all the sinners. That was 1500 years ago.

The end of everything is nothing new. It has occupied our minds for a long time. Maybe ever since time started we’ve been expecting it to stop. Maybe it’s a hunger for something new, something better, coupled with a desire for the dramatic, a breaking out of the mundane life we find ourselves caught in. Maybe a sense of justice too, wanting the corrupt and criminal to get their final comeuppance, and the innocent to be vindicated. Forever.

The first Christians were no different really. They were expecting Jesus to return from heaven pretty much as soon as he’d left this earth. To restore a new way of life, full of prosperity and peace for all. Jesus had promised to come back but he didn’t say when. As a result many have since kept predicting which day that will be. So far few… er I mean none… have been anywhere near successful. And this in spite of the fact that his last words were in effect – ‘Don’t bother trying to work it out, only God knows.’

Some see the end of the Mayan calendar not as a sign of the world going up in apocalyptic smoke, but as the end of one time cycle and the start of another. And that has echoes of Jesus about it too. When he bust out of the tomb something new began. A new age. The Jews believed that one day a new kingdom would be ushered in, a new age of light and hope when God would be in charge. A new genesis. Some scientists have claimed that the moment of resurrection was like a mini big bang – a new planetary birth within the grave of Jesus. The end of one time cycle and the start of a new one.

No doubt the predictions will continue. The end will go on being nigh. But it’s worth remembering that Jesus told stories about people not predicting the end of all things, but being ready and prepared for the new start. The cat burglar, he said, wouldn’t have broken in if the houseowner was ready and had rigged his home with appropriate traps like Kevin McCallister in Home Alone. Jesus seemed more interested in encouraging folks to live as perpetrators of the good things of the new age, rather than trying to predict when it would really kick in.

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