I’m gearing up for the end of the world. Evidently, it’s happening tomorrow. Bummer.
The ancient Mayans were fascinated with time. They marked their days with three distinct calendars. The Tzolk’in lasted 260 days and marked their religious ceremonies. The Haab’ lasted 365 days, much the same as ours minus that pesky February 29. But the calendar that has the world in an uproar is their Long Count Calendar, which is set to expire on December 21, 2012. What that exactly means is wildly debated.
Many people have surmised that the Mayans did not count any more days because there will not be any more days to count. They believe the world will self-destruct. Others who hold to the doomsday prophecy expect Planet X, an undiscovered planet in our solar system, to unsuspectingly slam into Earth. Some believers predict we will have some sort of self-induced catastrophe that will incinerate the planet.
When I hear about people who hold to these beliefs, I think, “There’s always a few nuts out there that grab the headlines.” However, I have surprisingly discovered that this fear of the world coming to an end is not just something that has gripped the fringe wackos out there. A recent Reuter’s poll revealed that 1 in 10 people think the Mayan calendar could signify the end of the world. Russia has been affected most by the Mayan mayhem. Russian businesses can’t stock enough candles and salt. Recently, Ramzan Kadyrov, the ruthless leader of Chechnya, arose as the unexpected voice of reason, posting on his website, “Does no one realize that once the end of the world comes, candles won’t help them?” That’s some pretty sound logic there, Mr. Dictator. Which leads me to ask, “How does one prepare oneself for the end of the world?”
Some have opted for the hunker-down approach. Lu Zhenghai has spent his life savings ($160,000) building a modern day ark. He believes the end of the world will come via a global flood. Silly Lu. Haven’t you read the story of Noah? The rainbow reminds us that God won’t destroy the world that way again.
Others are preparing for the end of the world by flocking to Bugarach, France, a tiny village at the foot of the French Pyrenees. The internet has fueled the belief that the mountain is harboring an extra-terrestrial vessel, a la Close Encounters and Devil’s Tower.
A pan-flute-playing hippy/doomsday prophet named Sylvain Durif showed up in Bugarach today with an eyewitness description of massive spaceships chartered by the Virgin Mary. The best I can tell, the population of 200 in Bugarach wishes the world would come to an end already so all of the unwanted visitors would leave them alone for crying out loud!
Perhaps the most sensible response in preparing for the end of the world is the “pull-out-all-of-the-stops, blow-the-budget, last-hurrah” vacation. Laila Medina, spa director of Sandos Hotels & Resorts (in the Mexican Riviera) says, “Despite popular beliefs that the end of the maya calendar on Dec. 21, 2012, coincides with the end of the world, the Maya people actually view the event as a new beginning, the awakening of a period of self-reflection, rejuvenation and reconnection with nature.” That’s exactly what I would say too if I was selling spa treatments on the eve of world destruction, sister! One hotel is marketing a “Party Like There’s No To-Maya” package. For a mere $12,021, you and two dozen of your friends get the entire 15th floor, a private party, and apocalypse worthy amenities like freeze-dried foods, gas masks, and water purification tablets. If there are any survivors, they get a morning-after brunch.
As you can probably tell, I’m skeptical of the whole ordeal. I’m not going to build an ark, board an alien aircraft, or blow my kid’s college education on one night of partying based upon a predictive calendar written by people who didn’t see the Spanish inquisition coming. The entire hullabaloo feels a bit Nostrsdamusy to me.
As a Christian, I have to be careful here. I do believe that our world will ultimately come to an end in God’s perfect timing. I do, however, think it quite foolish to presume upon the Lord and predict that time. Case in point: Harold Camping. He has wrongly predicted the return of the Lord three times. Many well-intentioned people sold their homes and gave up their wealth to follow Camping based upon his last prediction. I guess the first two missteps weren’t enough to deter them. Camping’s organization spent $1 million on billboards to promote the Lord’s return. Interestingly enough, Camping didn’t sell off his radio network which is valued at over $117 million.
Christians that spend their time pondering the timing of the Lord’s return often wind up with egg on their face. I think a more biblical response is to deemphasize the “when?” and spend our time asking, “How do we prepare for the end of the world?”
Simon Peter writes about the end of the world in 2 Peter 3:10:
“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.”
“The day of the Lord” refers to the Lord’s return and the culmination of life as we know it. He is writing about the end of days. He then challenges Christians with this thought in 2 Peter 3:11:
“Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness?”
Since the world is coming to an end, how should we live? What should our lives be like in preparation for the end of time? Should we take bank-account-emptying vacations? Should we seek an extraterrestrial taxi services off this doomed rock? The answer comes in 2 Peter 3:14-15a:
“Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. And count the patience of our Lord as salvation . . .”
In other words, since the world will one day come to an end and since we don’t know when that day will be, live every day for the Lord. Live holy lives that would please Him. And know that every day you have is an exercise of God’s patience and an opportunity for salvation.
So I’m not freaking out because the Mayan calendar is coming to a close. I’m not even upset by the revelation that the world might come to an end; I know it will. I’m just happy that God has given me another day. In His strength, I’ll try to serve my fellow man, love my wife, and raise my kids in a way that would please Him. I guess Michael Stipe and his band mates were right: (cue the R.E.M.) It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.