Since December 21st is a mere ten days away, I paid a little more attention recently to public commentary about the end of the world, sparked by notions of the Mayan calendar ending on the winter solstice of this year.
After listening to several commentators (mostly on CBC Radio), a couple themes stand out:
While most of the academics debunk a sudden, doomsday, one-off catastrophic event ending the world as we know it, they do imply that the disaster has already been happening. They state the general sensitivity and respect the Mayan people hold for the earth and who decry the abuse inflicted on the environment by dominant, economic forces.
The catastophe has occurred incrementally and increasingly in the public awareness over the past few decades around environmental disintegration — melting polar ice caps, acidification of global oceans and lakes, the disappearance of vital coral reefs, etc., etc.
The earth suffers under the weight of these significant changes. Something will need to give. Something will need to end, so to turn the tide and restore a balance in creation. And soon. Soon and very soon.
What will end? What is already ending since the financial crisis of 2008, which continues to this day and is forecast to continue well into 2013? Would it be a lifestyle so charged with materialistic progress that we find ourselves in suffocating debt? Will it be an economy which can survive only on the demand of human greed and acquisition? Will it be our identity and self worth based solely on what we own and protect for ourselves to the disregard of those outside our borders, and without?
If this is the end in sight, then there is opportunity here to work towards building hope and joy in a new thing for all people. New ideas to guide our collective being together. New structures and strategies for social and economic cohesion. Bold action for justice, peace and compassion.
At this time of year when endings are contemplated, feared, even celebrated, a new beginning awaits. What may have to end, may have to be. And this won’t be easy, by any stretch, for any one of us — especially the privileged in the world.
And yet, the new thing for which we wait in the season of Advent is the birth of the divine into the world. Advent yields to Christmas by the longed-for infusion of renewal, life-giving promise that the earth will find its way again. This way is cleared by the God who came into it — the God who created it, the God who loved it, the God who gave up life itself for it.
The earth is hopeful. And we, instrumentally, along with it.