It looks like “The end is near” sign may become the fashion accessory of the season. Last year the end of the Mayan Calendar in 2012 drew plenty of doomsday hype, including a movie. Evangelical radio broadcaster Harold Camping announced earlier this year that May 21, 2011 would be the date of the rapture. And a jeweler in Superior, Wisc., is selling his goods for 50 percent off during his Second Coming sale.
“I’m trying to be upfront with my faith and my position,” the jeweler told the Duluth News Tribune. “If anybody wants to see my jewelry or talk about the Lord’s coming, I’m here.” (One shopper’s response: “If Jesus really is coming back, why would I want diamonds?”)
Camping’s campaign includes 40 billion (yes, billion) billboards in Tennessee, and The Washington Post’s On Faith blog reported a Colorado woman paid $1,200 for “Save the Date! The Return of Christ: May 21, 2011” to run on bus stop benches.
I’m no Nostradamus, but I’d venture to predict that the world isn’t getting close to Armageddon. And, if it were, we wouldn’t know, according to the Bible — you know, Jesus saying that whole “Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know the hour” thing.
It’s easy to dismiss these Chicken Littles as a bit crazy, and maybe they are. Yet my hometown parish has its own sign hanging on its doors, and its words are a bit too close for apocalyptic comfort: “The Lord is near.”
If you’ve noticed, the Advent liturgical readings have gotten a bit doomsday themselves. The first Sunday’s Gospel proclaimed, “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand,” and the second Sunday’s first reading from Isaiah had a similar theme: “Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you.”
That’s because the Catholic Church has its own “The end is near” sign worked into its liturgical calendar. Yes, we’re anticipating Christmas, but what we’re really anticipating as a Christian church is the Second Coming of Christ. And while we can pick a day on the calendar or project a final year, we’ve got our own earthly end to worry about.
While stressing about May 11, 2011, I could get creamed by a car tomorrow while crossing the street. That makes the Final Judgment a bit closer than May.
The church isn’t about shocking us to seek salvation through dateline gimmicks and Second Coming close-out sales. Rather, it would prefer we heed the advice of Jesus Christ and “stay awake,” meaning constant vigilance, for we know not the day, nor the hour.
And that might be worth a billboard sign.