Advent: are we living in the end times?

The simple answer is, “yep, you bet.” But why that is the simple answer is a little more complicated.

Let me try to explain.

All things come to an end. That is the human experience. So, it is little wonder that all people wonder at one time or another in their lives about what it would be like– to “not exist.” Most sci-fi novels and movies have such a theme at the heart of the plot. Generally speaking, except in certain Tom Waits songs, hope curiously manages to triumph. Usually (while all teeters on the verge of extinction), there is a hope for the future and a hope for life continuing.

There seems to be a certain preoccupation with that theme—the ending of all things–in the wider culture these days. Is it just me, or does it seem that the horrors depicted in the book of Revelation might be understood in terms of what humans have managed to make?

In reading that book again, I have come to think of the images therein as the consequences of pollution, multinational corporation greed, exploitation of natural resources such as water; all horrors not of God’s making but ours.

Well, it may not be theologically traditional, but when you start thinking in that fashion, there is a transformation that takes place. Far from being a message about horrors to come, the book of Revelation becomes the reassurance of God’s saving grace. The old heaven and the old earth are replaced with a new heaven and earth. The old order that is decaying is replaced with something new and wonderful.

I think that this is also the message of the Advent season. We’re invited to think and to pray about those classic themes– heaven, hell, death, and judgment– because we all think about them anyway. We all struggle with these matters whether or not we have much of a prayer life. But when we pray about them, we are invited to a note of hope. From our point of view everything passes away; God’s promise is that with his grace all things shall be made new.

God persistently keeps telling us that if you keep looking for the end of all things, that is exactly what you are going to find. But if instead you keep looking for God, then you will find that which is glorious. Advent is about getting ready to receive something glorious. It is about getting your spiritual house in order so that you might be able to receive the grace of God when it breaks in upon you.

It was observed in the movie “The Shawshank Redemption” that most of us have a choice. We can be preoccupied with the end of all things, or we can get busy with making a positive difference in life. I think in the movie, the phrase was, “you can get busy living, or you can get busy dying.” My apologies to Stephen King if I misquoted him! But you get the point. Choose life, get busy with life! Quit walking around waiting for the sky to fall!

So I hope you use this coming season to get ready, get set, and find grace. For if you were to do these things, it would be transformational in ways you cannot imagine.


Canon Greg+


About canongreg

I have been Rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Wellsboro, PA since 1994.
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