Today, in 500 words or less, I am going to attempt to explain the idea of eschatology. I have to. I can't let the Christmas season go by without it.
Eschatology (say it with me, es-ka-TOL-o-gee) is basically the part of theology that deals with what Tim LaHaye-types like to call "The End Times." Revelation, armageddon (the event, not the movie), the Left Behind series---they're all eschatology. Basically, anything that has to do with how the world ends, and usually the part that God plays in all that, has to do with eschatology. In a broader sense, it also encompasses anything to with the Messiah or the Messianic Age (which is supposed to bring peace and justice).
Under 75 words, not too bad.
So why am I bringing this up at Christmas? Because Christmas is an eschatological (es-kat-o-LOG-i-cal) holiday. Don't believe me? Check out the lyrics to a holiday favorite:
O Come, O come Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
Who lays in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel
Here's Jewish History 101: First, there was Abraham. Then there were a few more people, then there was Jacob, who wrestled with God and therefore received the name Israel ("he who wrestles"), from which the nation of people is named. Then they were in Egypt. Then they weren't in Egypt any more (think "The Ten Commandments"). Then they were in the desert. Then they were in the Promised Land. Then they were exiled (kicked out) of the Promised Land. Then they were let back in. Then the Romans came in and colonized them, so essentially they were exiled without actually being kicked out of their land.
See the connection? The Son of God or Messiah (Jesus, to Christians) was supposed to deliver Israel. I promise that the Messiah does have to do with the end of the world, but I'm not going to go into it because that gets into really deep waters and we start using words like "inaugurated eschatology" and "supercessionism" and I'm on vacation and therefore refuse to use too many words over four syllables. Just trust me on it.
So, if you understand what I just tried to explain, while you're singing through some of your favorite hymns this Sunday and Monday, try to find some eschatological references. I dare you.
It's fun, really.