"The Sky is Falling!"

Remember the story about Chicken Little, meandering down the road when an acorn fell from the oak tree, striking her on the head? Panicked, she ran down the road squawking to all who would listen: “The sky is falling, the sky is falling, and we must tell the king!” Chicken Little’s cry in Henry Penny’s children’s tale has become a familiar idiom for hysteria over disaster that really isn’t imminent. Last Friday our terrestrial home in the solar system experienced (within less than twelve hours) the direct strike of a meteor in Russia and the near miss of a second asteroid, 2012 DA14. Since the trajectories of the two orbiting pieces of giant space rock were vastly different, scientists have been quick to dismiss any connection between the two outer space visitors. The school-bus sized meteor that exploded 18-32 miles above the Ural mountains near Chelyabinsk is now the star of so many YouTube videos that it feels like we know each other. Streaking into our atmosphere at a speed of 19 miles a second (bullets travel at four miles per second), this meteor (meteors are asteroids that enter earth’s atmosphere; meteorites are meteors that actually strike the earth as this one eventually did) disintegrated with energy 30 times the force of Hiroshima’s nuclear bomb! Thus the sonic boom and the 1200 injured from the shockwave-induced flying glass. 2012 DA14 achieved its own distinction a few hours later by becoming the “closest-ever predicted approach to Earth for an object this large,” according to NASA. It’s more leisurely speed of 5 miles per second brought this half-a-football-field sized asteroid to within 17,200 miles of our home. Just fifteen minutes difference in the conjunction of earth’s orbit with this asteroid, and we would have suffered a direct hit, estimated by some scientists as capable of devastating an area larger than the city of London. Chicken Little was certainly right about this: anytime the sky falls, we’re in trouble! Yes, but aren’t the various space agencies tracking these foreign objects that speed by us? In fact they are now monitoring 10,000 NEOs (near earth objects) in our solar system. And astronomers are confident they have a handle on every asteroid 19 miles in size and larger (those with the potential to cause global catastrophe and even mass extinction). They are also confident they are tracking between 90-95% of asteroids a half mile in size. But here’s the kicker—reduce the asteroid to the size of 2012 DA14 (50 yards) or less, and they are sure of only 2% of these! I.e., “there could be hundreds of thousands of these smaller asteroids waiting to be discovered” (www.guardian.co.uk/science/across-the-universe. . .), hopefully in time. “The sky is falling, the sky is falling!” Well, not quite. But the strange coincidence of two outer space visitors on the same day is a rather sobering reminder to Earth that life as we know it could be forever altered in a split second by a streak of blinding light across our skies. Not to be forgotten is the somber prediction of Jesus that before His return to earth “the powers of the heavens will be shaken” (Luke 21:26). The obvious point for all of us who live in the “fourth watch” of earth’s history is to find in the person of Jesus our reason for living today and our “blessed hope” for tomorrow. After all, He is the Star of every apocalyptic prediction, the Promise behind every transpiring sign. No wonder His very next words are so buoyant with courage: “Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near” (v 28).