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JOE LAGUARDIA: Only God knows when the end of the world will come

I hope that you're reading this. If so, that means that the end of the world didn't happen after all. Otherwise, this newspaper -- and everything else -- would have been toast by now.

I know I should be writing about Christmas, but since it is Dec. 21, 2012, I think writing about the end of the world is appropriate.

If you haven't heard, today is the big day for yet another apocalyptic conclusion to our little planet in the galaxy. Rumor has it that on this date, according to the Mayans anyway, the earth, sun, and Milky Way are all going to line up in such a way that it causes a cataclysmic event.

It's so big, theories range from total destruction to an instant reversal of the earth's rotation.

Some folks take this stuff seriously. At least one website is dedicated to doomsday theories and reports the rise of one-way ticket sales to Southern France and Turkey (the location of two separate "holy mountains"); government-issued orders to help alleviate hysteria; and radio and television interviews from experts in a variety of fields.

It seems a bit much to be this prepared for something this outlandish. Granted, I enjoy a good conspiracy theory myself, but the end of the world based on an ancient calendar seems, well, hysterical.

Perhaps we should be putting our energy elsewhere, in something a little more real like, say, the Second Coming of Christ. This is Christmas, after all (you knew I'd get to it eventually, right?), and it is a time to remember God coming to us in the flesh and celebrating the fact that God-in-the-flesh, Jesus, will come again.

The Mayans and theorists are correct about one thing: There will be a conclusion (or, more accurately, a new beginning) to history; but, according to Scripture, it will entail the coming of a "new heaven and a new earth" in which Jesus reigns over all creation once and for all (Rev. 21).

Despite all of the naysayers and soothsayers, Jesus told us more than once that no one will know the time of His return. No one, "neither the angels of heaven nor the Son, but only the Father," will know (Matt. 24:36).

Many will hear this and keep on living life as usual; but Jesus told us this not because He wants us to carry on as usual, but to be alert in exuberant expectancy.

After Jesus told his disciples that they will not know the day or the hour, He commanded them (twice) to "keep awake" (Matt. 24:42; 25:13). Furthermore, He instructed them in parables and said, "Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives" (Matt. 24:46).

He also gave them details on what that work should look like: feeding the hungry, welcoming the stranger, and visiting those imprisoned and sick among other things (Matt. 25:31-46).

I have a hunch that you can guess the difference between a random person getting hysterical about the end of the world and the Christian who is remaining "awake" for Jesus because of the joy that a Christian has in expecting what the future holds.

While people stockpile food and batteries, Christians joyously give with abandon to neighbors and enemies alike, all the while celebrating the fact that God holds before us a bright future.

Joy is our response to end-of-the-world fanfare and joy is what we expect will come in the future. Jesus promises those who follow Him that they will be greeted with this affirmation: "Well done good and faithful servant...enter into the joy of your master" (Matt. 25:21).

The Rev. Joe LaGuardia is the senior pastor of Trinity Baptist Church, 301 Honey Creek Road, Conyers. Email him at trinitybc3@bellsouth.net or visit www.trinityconyers.org.