The Thanksgiving holiday reminds us that this year is very near to coming to an end. In fact, in the Christian liturgical calendar, the 2021 church year actually begins right now with the first week of Advent, the season of the four weeks before Christmas. This calendar is a cycle of scripture readings for worship services that begins with anticipating the birth of the savior in Advent, welcoming him in the Christmas season, following his teachings and ministry, preparing for his death and resurrection in Lent, celebrating these events in the Easter/Pentecost season, and ending with the ultimate victory of Christ as king of the universe.

The final weeks of the church year focus on the end of time and the Last Judgement. It is the period in which we reflect on readings from the Book of Revelation, a book that has often been of special interest and interpretation (or misinterpretation). It was originally written in a particular style that used symbolism to address actual historical conflicts and sufferings, but there are those who believe it holds some prediction of future events. It is often connected to ideas about the end of the world. Predictions about the end of the world stand on pretty shaky ground. Every so often, someone comes forward and claims to have figured out the date. A handful of followers rush to prepare only to have to make some creative excuses when the day comes and goes and we’re all still here. If they were serious about taking the bible literally, they would have noticed the places where Jesus says “No one knows the day or the hour.” I’m afraid some people might want the end time to be in their lifetime so that they can see other people get what they think those others deserve. On a less cynical note, I think we all like certainty in our lives, especially about things that are scary to think about. There have always been events or people that we would like to plug into the symbols in Revelation and say, “See, this proves it’s almost the end.” However, throughout history people have read these passages and insisted that it definitely applied to the time they were living in and, obviously, they were all wrong.

When Jesus talks about not knowing the day or the hour, however, he’s more directly referring to the end of each one of us individually. The cycle of the church year reminds us that, just as Jesus had a human birth, lifetime and death, each of us goes through the same cycle. When our end comes, Jesus tells us, we will be held accountable for how we used that limited amount of time. He says we will not be asked about our personal piety, our possessions and status, but about how we cared for the others around us, especially those most in need. The holiday season is often a time when we are more conscious of the needy and give more generously to charities. Then we have a tendency to forget about the needy until the next year. I certainly hope that no one reading this right now is actually facing a life-threatening illness, but what if we thought about this holiday season as perhaps the last one of our lives? As the people in the gospel parable ask, “When did I see you hungry or naked or lonely?”, would we know the answer as to whom we saw and whom we either aided or passed by? None of us knows when the world will end or exactly when our own lives will end. What we do know as believers is that one victorious king wants us to be together in his kingdom with all the others, as different as they may be from ourselves.

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