Joy at Midnight

AJoy at Midnight@

Text: Matthew 25: 1-13

Prayer: O Lord, life bring the unexpected, some joys some heartaches. Yet, you are with us in all. Help us to find in you all that we need to sustain us and help us flourish with strength and joy. Amen.

Can somebody tell me the Scout motto? That’s right… be prepared… in this case, thoroughly prepared. If you skip one little detail… well… you’re in trouble.

A 36‑year‑old carpenter in Vancouver, British Columbia named William will testify to that. William hoped to become a stunt man. William knew that movie people were jetting in from all over the world that year for the Vancouver Film Festival. He decided to catch their attention by bungee jumping off Vancouver’s Lions Gate Bridge.

He could see himself gracefully descending to the deck of a passing cruise ship, and disengaging himself from the bungee cable as smoothly as James Bond, to the awe of the ship’s passengers. When word got around, producers would marvel at his work, and discuss over cocktails who would hire him for their next film.

William planned his stunt for over two years, checking the height of the tides, boat schedules, and deck layouts. He even lined up sponsors and recruited assistants.

The stunt began perfectly. William took a swan dive off the bridge, trailing the bungee cord behind him. He felt it grow taut as it stretched and began to slow his descent. The tennis court of the cruise ship drew nearer. And nearer. And nearer.

Somehow William had miscalculated the length of his bungee cord. Subsequently, he slammed into the tennis court, hurtled into a volleyball net, bounced against a deck railing, and found himself flying once more into the air, watching the cruise ship sail away.

Don’t worry. William survived. Although he had failed to make his James Bond entrance, “People on the boat loved it,” he told a reporter. “They were screaming, yelling, waving.” A witness, however, described the reaction as “shrieks of horror.”

When the stunt was over, William dangled above the water for a few minutes, confirming that no bones were broken, and making a mental note to use a shorter bungee cord next time. William is still waiting to hear from the movie producers.

The scout motto is correct. Be prepared be thoroughly prepared.

Jesus told a parable about the kingdom of God. It concerned some young women who were part of a wedding party. Ten bridesmaids, he said, took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. But only five of the bridesmaids were wise enough to fill their lamps with oil. Only five of them were prepared. So when the bridegroom was delayed, five of the ten bridesmaids ran out of oil and had to go buy some more.

The bridegroom came, of course, while they were gone, and the bridesmaids who were prepared went in with him to the wedding feast. When the five who had gone to buy more oil returned, they found the door to the wedding feast locked. They had missed the feast because they were not prepared. “Therefore keep watch,” the Master said, “because you do not know the day or the hour.” That is not simply a good idea. It is a direct command from our Lord. Keep watch. Be prepared.

1. Life is full of the unexpected.

Sometimes, no matter how carefully we’ve planned ahead, life sneaks up behind us and smacks us on the head.

In one of Bill Waterson’s cartoon series, Calvin and Hobbes, Calvin enters the living room one morning dressed in a large space helmet, a long cape, a flashlight in one hand and a baseball bat in the other.

“What’s up today?” asks his mother looking at his extraordinary costume.

“Nothing so far,” Calvin answers.

“So far?” she questions.

“Well, you never know,” replies Calvin. “Something could happen today.”

As Calvin leaves his mother starts thinking about Calvin’s helmet, the cape, the flashlight and the baseball bat. The final caption shows her thinking, “I need a suit like that!”

We all need a suit like that. Life sends us challenges. We often call these “learning experiences.” That doesn’t mean they don’t hurt. We learn all right, but we take our lumps. That’s life. You better be prepared.

One of the best examples of a mother preparing her young for the ups and downs of life comes from Gary Richmond’s book, A View from the Zoo. In chapter one Richmond gives us an amazing look at the birth of a baby giraffe.

Now here’s the first thing you need to recognize giraffes have long legs very long legs. The body of a mother giraffe is some ten feet from the ground and she does not lower her body when she gives birth. When a calf is born, he immediately falls ten feet to the ground and lands on his back. Ten feet is a long way to fall. What a way to come into the world.

Then after falling on its back, the newborn calf rolls over on his stomach with his legs tucked under him. At this point the mother giraffe does something extraordinary. She waits about a minute and then she kicks the newborn calf head over heels and sends it sprawling. Talk about tough love. If the baby giraffe doesn’t immediately get up on its legs, she kicks it again, and again. Finally, the little giraffe stands for the first time on its very wobbly legs. He’s now ready to follow her and the rest of the herd.

Please understand. The mother giraffe is not being cruel to her baby. Quite the contrary! She knows that lions and hyenas and leopards would love to make a meal of a baby giraffe.

So, she needs her baby calf to get to its feet as quickly as possible so that it can keep up with the herd. Kicking him is her way of protecting her young one from predators.

Sometimes we may also feel as though life has no sooner gotten us to our feet when it turns around and suddenly knocks us back down. The next time that happens to you, think about the newborn giraffe. Life may simply be strengthening us for an unknown future.

Life is full of the unexpected. None of us is totally prepared, but it is important that we do all we can. We live in a very fragile world. Life itself is very fragile. The parent of every teenager with a driver’s license is aware of the risk involved. Many of us in the middle and later years of life are becoming aware of friends who are dying untimely deaths because of cancer and heart attacks. And we wonder, could I be next?

Life is fragile. Nowadays, family relationships are fragile. One out of every two marriages ends in divorce. About one‑half of our nation’s children live in homes with one biological parent absent. Life is fragile. Family life is fragile.

There are no guarantees of success or happiness for any of us. We need to be prepared for whatever life may send us. “Keep watch,” the Master said, “because you do not know the day or the hour.”

2. Prepared for Christ’s Return

We are certainly not prepared for Christ’s return. That is what our lesson is about Christ’s return to earth at the end of time. We have no idea when that may be, of course. It may be thousands of years away, or it may be today. Still, Christ tells us to be prepared. Be prepared to give an account of your life.

I heard of one man who was prepared, at least in one respect. His name was Jan Christian Smuts. He was a statesman in the early days of the Republic of South Africa.

Smuts was nearing retirement when a French journalist approached him about writing the story of his life. Smuts agreed.

At the interview Smuts stood up, looked at the journalist, and said, “Here is my library, my files, my records, my diary.

It is all for you to examine.”

Startled, the writer said, “But, sir, you don’t really mean that I can go through all of your records. Surely you have some secrets.”

“No,” General Smuts replied, “there are no secrets.”

Wouldn’t that be a wonderful thing to be able to say about your life? “No secrets.” We would all sleep better at night; we would have healthier marriages, healthier hearts, healthier lives C if only we could say with Jan Christian Smuts, “There are no secrets.”

Of course there will be a time when all secrets will be revealed.

Author Peter Graystone recalls a conversation that he had with a friend on a subway when he was 16.

He and his friend were bored and started whispering to one another about their fellow passengers trying to guess what each one did for a living based entirely on their appearance.

As the train drew into the station a middle aged woman walked the length of the train and came directly to where they were sitting. “You are wrong,” she said as she passed. “I actually teach children who are deaf how to lip read.”

Whoa. They learned a lesson in a hurry. They thought no one would guess what they were doing, but one woman did. She read lips. Better be careful who’s listening even if they are not within range of the sound of your voice. There will be a time when all secrets will be revealed. Of course, there is One before whom no secrets are ever hidden. Are you prepared to give an accounting to the One before Whom the secrets of all hearts are disclosed?

Be prepared. Watch and be ready. Life is fragile. Ultimately there are no secrets. But there is another perspective concerning watching and waiting we are to watch with a positive anticipation.

3. Positive Anticipation.

Soon children will be waiting and watching with great expectancy for Santa. They are not waiting with fear and dread. They are waiting with joyful hearts.

It troubles me that so many Christians look toward the future with doubt and dread. Of course, Christians are not unique in this respect.

There is so much silliness and so many scare tactics surrounding portrayals of the Second Coming of Christ that it is difficult to take them seriously.

Many of the books and films that purportedly picture Christ’s return are clearly intended to scare believers into repentance. Well, we do need to turn to God. We do need to clean up our lives, but the coming of the Lord, whether at Christmas or at Christ’s return on the last day ought to be something Christ’s followers look forward to. We ought to be like little children whose parent loves them very much, but has gone on a long business trip.

Now they can’t wait for their parent to come home. We wait not with fear, but with faith.

The point is to be prepared. Be prepared so that if you dropped dead this moment, you would have nothing to apologize for. Be prepared so if you were offered the biggest promotion or greatest blessing in your life, you would be ready to step into your new role. Be prepared so that if some tragedy entered your life, you would be able to ride out the storm, because your prayer life was rich and you knew you had a Friend. Be prepared.

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Prayer: O Lord, thank you for the blessings which we enjoy and the joys we have in life. Help us to be ready at all times by having a faith, and heart of love, as an abiding constant. May our lives be open to you and filled with you. Amen.