February 2, Prognostication Day. When dawn breaks in Punxsutawney today, a hapless groundhog will be yanked from his burrow to forecast how many weeks of winter weather remain ahead, in the light of (or, more accurately, in the shadow of) his appearance. Network TV cameras will focus on the poor fellow’s sleepy face while thousands of tourists cheer the news. It is the apogee of Punxsutawney’s year.

We human beings are suckers for prognostication, no matter how far-fetched the premise. Whether we consult tea leaves, tarot cards, or chicken innards, we eagerly clamor for predictions of the future.

News media hyped a preacher’s prediction that the world would end last May. When that didn’t happen, he adjusted his date forward a few months. Less hype this time, less time on the evening news, and less attention when the world didn’t end on his second appointed date.

Now attention turns to December 2012 when, we are told, the world will end because an ancient Mayan calendar runs out. (Good thing the date falls several weeks after the Presidential election, when the news media will be need some fresh meat.) Reporters will want to know if astronomical observatories see any incoming asteroids as we approach the day. Mediums and clairvoyants will be consulted. Sensationalist preachers will weigh in, too, citing obscure Scripture passages to support or refute the Mayan prediction.

The Gospels do tell us several things about the end of time, especially about speculating when it will occur. Jesus says the world will end after there are “wars and rumors of wars,” “famines and earthquakes,” and an “increase of wickedness” (Matt. 24:6 ff.). In other words, the end could come any day now.

So what about the actual date of the End?

Jesus says, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matt 24:36). Not the Mayan astrologers. Not the tarot-card dealers. Not even Punxsutawney Phil. So be ready…but don’t be snookered.