Here in southern California, we’ve been hearing about El Niño for some time. Currently, we have something in the news about it pretty much every day. El Niño means “The Little Boy” in Spanish, or it’s also thought of as “The Christ Child.” It’s an unusual weather pattern triggered by a huge, continent-sized area of warmer-than-usual water in the Pacific Ocean along the Equator west of Peru. The warmer water first occurs in the month of December which is where this weather pattern gets its Christmas name, and it can cause a persistent series of subtropical storms to hit the southern part of California, one after another. Most recently, this pattern has occurred in 1983 and 1998, causing double to triple the normal rainfall here. And it’s not so much the amount of rain as it is how it comes. It comes fast and furious, and by a series of storms that can result in severe flooding conditions and mudslides, especially in areas where autumn forest fires have stripped the land of foliage.
So I picked up the free sandbags the city provided and stacked them two high along the bottom of our garage, because our driveway slopes down to it, and lots of rain at once can send a river down there. We’ve cleared out our gutters, tightened up our windows and checked for leaks. We’ve taken most of the precautions that have been suggested, and now we’re just waiting. A few weeks ago we were braced for what looked like three days of rain which turned out to be about a half a day. It was actually kind of disappointing, though people in areas more susceptible to flooding wouldn’t have felt that way. Now I look at my weather calendar on my smart phone and see nothing but sunny days ahead.
Hmmm. Maybe this isn’t going to be what it was cracked up to be. Though one climatologist said that first storm was just the trailer for the movie. The big rains of ’83 and ’98 came in February and March. Still, I feel a little like Noah, preparing for a deluge with sunny skies ahead.
Something about this reminds me of the second coming of Christ. I’m not sure why we don’t talk about this much anymore, but we don’t … I don’t. Forty-five years ago, that wasn’t the case. In regards to the return of Christ, 1970 was an El Niño year. All the signs were there. The rapture was on everyone’s mind. Hal Lindsay’s The Late Great Planet Earth had just been published, and none of us, who were “Jesus Freaks” at the time, expected to be here much longer. We read about it, wrote about it, sang about it and preached about it. “Maranatha, Maranatha, the Master’s coming home/We must prepare our hearts so we can meet Him …” Time to get right with God. Yet here we are, 45 years later, with clear skies and sunny days ahead.
What happened to us? Certainly it was much easier to talk about the world ending with all your possessions in a backpack and no real plan for the future — which is where the ‘70s caught many of us. Was it the marriages, and the mortgages, and the jobs, and the kids, and the college education, and the insurance, and the grandkids, and the retirement that got us so heavily committed to this life that we forgot about the next one?
Jesus was always other-worldly minded, but not so much so that He didn’t pay attention to what was going on here. He healed the sick, fed the crowds when they were hungry, told us to love our neighbor, and give Caesar (the reigning government of the day) what was due. But He also asked us to consider the profit of gaining the whole world and losing our own eternal souls. He told His disciples to check the signs and then showed them that the signs were pointing to an imminent end. He even gave them the impression it might come in their lifetimes. Personally, I think He wants us all to buy that. I think we continually need to weigh our lives in the balance of eternity. The point is: however the end comes — whether we die, or the Lord comes back for us — it’s going to come sooner than we think in the relative nature of things. Life is terribly short to begin with. Time to get right with God, and live as if there were a tomorrow, because what you do today is going to count for something then.
As far as the return of Christ is concerned, it’s always an El Niño year.