But when ye shall hear of wars and commotions, be not terrified: for these things must first come to pass; but the end is not by and by. Then said he unto them, Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: And great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven. But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name's sake. Luke 21
This passage is used in many, perhaps most churches during Advent. On the internet these days, especially on FB and other outlets for American neurosis, videos are being shown in which a preacher declares that the end times are here. These are the worst of times, they howl, and mankind has never been so badly off as it is now.
More sensible people point out some of the virtually countless periods of human history and prehistory, when populations have been wiped out, people enslaved en masse, and traditions put down by fire and sword. All thing considered, we Americans, who are fond of the proverb "If you've got your health, you've got everything," are extraordinarily well off, especially if we add to "health" our other primary concerns which include comfort, tranqs, cable TV, highspeed internet access, and lots and lots of sports. We must be the only people in the world who have enjoyed such luxuries but nonethless whine unceasingly about our misery.
All the whining, it is true, is ineluctable evidence that we are a very sick people, but anyone with eyes to see is aware of this. Bean-counters might cite figures on divorce, depression, drug addiction (including prescription drugs), suicide, and rape even of children. Those who look beyond the surface might bring up the junk and filth on which billions of dollars are spent, from the Game of Thrones to Rap to Taylor Swift to virtually everything on the Times best-seller list, non-fiction as well as fiction. Anyone educated in another time, if he were to watch a few minutes of the History Channel or pick up a copy of The Smithsonian, would also conclude we were the dumbest and most ignorant po bukras who ever defaced the landscape. Pardon the dialect.
But the worst and most despicable foolishness is this habit of reading doom in the stars or blaming our troubles on those evil Democrats or those RINOs who let down their side. "The fault...lies not within the stars but in ourselves that we are underlings." Who said that? Some dead guy, probably.
Underlings is right, though not underlings to Julius "Dictator-for-Life" Caesar but to our own weakness and bad habits. Mental illness and sucidie are soaring. Why? Because we have to spend more time with our families? Kids and neighbors can be boring, but suicide seems a drastic measure, when you could study Chinese or Lithuanian, work on learning chess or GO, build a ship in a bottle--anything but sit around wringing our hands and feeling sorry for ourselves.
Instead of blaming Biden and the Democrats for our unhappiness, we'd do better to blame the devil, who is a far more real threat than a senile president or the party of crooks that will be pulling his strings. Of course, the devil and his ministers can't even enter your house, much less do you much mischief, unless you invite him in. And there--though I don't want to get too preachy about it--is the rub.
Men and women who are in charge of their own lives--people who are what ancient Greeks called "sophron"--have so many useful things to do they have no time or energy to waste in self-pity. I have had any number of dead-beat friends who played music or collected mushrooms or simply took pleasure in the little things. Some of them died of their excesses but they did not engage in that long slow trainwreck we call boredom and depression. Whenever my children said they were bored, I'd inform them that they got the word slightly wrong: They should have said "boring," because it was boring people who were easily bored and, in turn, bored others with their complaining.
I think of AE Housman, who was sent down from Oxford and went to work in the patent office. He was naturally of a melancholy disposition, but he went on with his life, all the time belieivng in human futility. He did not have television, but he could have wasted away in pubs or read cheap fiction.. Instead, he made himself the finest Latin scholar in the English-speaking world and one of the best poets of the 20th century in any language.
Christians have always been told to lead every day as if it were their last day, as if time itself would have a stop. That is one important aspect of Advent: We are celebrating the coming of the Son of God in human form over 2000 years ago, but we are also anticipating the tribulations that will precede his second coming. Our Lord Himself told us not to be distracted by the bad things that happen in the world or by the false reports of them--wars and media gossip. Paul goes straight to the point in Romans 13:
And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.