Today is the first day of Advent and this evening is the first night of Hanukah. It is a wet day, warm for the season, the damp slowly eating away at the snow pack. Here and there areas of bare grass have come into view.
Advent is a time of anticipation as we await the coming of the child who will end human suffering. Hanukah is a time of hope and renewal. Both are deeply rooted in ideas about the end of time and the remaking of the world.
Of late I’ve been noting the growing prevalence of End-Time narratives in public discourse and in literature. As one might expect, much of this discourse carries the belief that things have never been this bad, an idea soaked in hyperbole and, perhaps, privilege.
While the idea that the threats we face are unprecedented rests at the heart of End-Time thinking, it is also, very often, perversely short-sighted. Things have been worse, just ask the dinosaurs. Or those who lived through plagues. Or those who faced, or continue to face slavery and/or genocide.
Things are difficult, and without concerted efforts by all people, will certainly get far worse. Yet, while it is true that the Earth herself will die in a couple of billion years, her end is hardly imminent. In the shorter run, I suspect that though our capacity to create suffering seems at times unbounded, our collective human demise is also a ways off.
It is, however, true that immense change is afoot, and the next few decades threaten to be immensely painful for many species, including our own. Certainly, for far too many cultures, languages, and species, will pass from the world, leaving humanity and the Earth profoundly impoverished. Yet, it also seems certain that the end of one world will lead to the emergence of another, along with a new blossoming of species. Of course, given the time frame, we humans may not be around to witness it.
Still, the promise of Advent and Hanukah, that the world will be renewed, is far from hollow or empty. Rather, our human time-frame is simply too brief and our belief in miracles too diminished. Who knows what we might accomplish together should we put our hearts and minds to it?
As we move into the seasons of Advent and Hanukah, let us keep the light of hope and vision burning. Renewal will surely come.