Phew! December 22 dawned and I am here. I trust you are too. I actually have not seen another person (other than my wife) this morning. But, the sun is shining brilliantly and the snow is hosting an art show of brilliant light and mysterious shadows. Oh, and I just saw a bird. Esperanza!
While shopping in a grocery store in Mexico I came upon a man who wanted to give us a tour of the Mayan ruins which were the source of the “end of the world” phenomenon that just ended. I declined the tour offer, but I asked him about the sign that was doing most of his advertising for him. It displayed in bright big letters: “Esperanza 2012”. He explained that, for the Mayans, of which he claimed to be one, 12.21.12 was not the day the world would end, but it would be the dawning of a new era marked by Esperanza, a Spanish word meaning hope. His English was much better than my Spanish, but not good enough that we could have a real dialogue about Esperanza. What I wanted to know is how he understood Hope. Did he mean a Hope in God, or Mayan gods, or Christ, or some other religious figure? I couldn’t get my question asked plainly enough, but what I took from his remarks was that, starting today, December 22, 2012, a new Esperanza would inhabit the world.
I had pretty much forgotten that conversation until I read about the 20,000 people gathered at the Mayan tourists spots yesterday to witness the end of the world or, failing that, something spectacular. They should have talked to my tour guide, I guess, and saved themselves a lot of time and money. But, the people seeking something new were not just in Mexico. Reports tell us that in France a group waited for a secret space ship to come out of the mountains to carry them to safety. In China, some Christians declared that Jesus had returned as a Chinese woman, another one of many stories that Jesus has returned and is living with and leading a small group in some remote place.
What human need manufactures these myths and fables? We all have a need for Esperanza hard-wired into our brains, I think. What drives people to flock to churches on Christmas Eve? Esperanza! All of the myths are take-offs of the one true Hope: the God Child who snuck in through a woman’s womb on some unknown evening in Bethlehem is making the grandest return entrance our minds can imagine on some unknown day, and he’s coming for me and for all the Esperanza-filled believers who lived from the beginning of time until its end. That’s what Christmas means to me, and I hope, to you. God gives us just enough hard evidence to feed our faith that this is the One Truth.
I guess the guide was right: on Dec. 22 I am filled with Esperanza! God has once again proved that he is beyond our man-made myths and calendars. My Esperanza is built on nothing less.