Night Sweats

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“Behold, I come like a thief! Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes with him, so that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed.” (Revelation 16:15)

If I were the Messiah I’d do my Second Coming thing on a Friday afternoon during rush hour when everybody’s heading out for the weekend. But I guess that’s too obvious for Jesus. Instead, he’s planning to ambush us in the middle of the night when we’re in bed buck naked.

My house used to be wired with a combination fire/intruder alarm system. All the windows and doors were armed and there was a smoke detector in every room. It was reassuring for a while until it started to fritz out. More than a few times, in the middle of the night, one of the smoke detectors would go off for no reason. That would immediately spark the main alarm which would then blast this terrifying siren all through the house. Jolted awake and totally freaked, I would leap from bed, wearing only my skivvies (which suddenly needed to be changed), and careen like a madman down the stairs to the closet where the control board was mounted. After frantically punching the keypad, the alarm mercifully stopped. Dazed and with heart pounding, I stumbled back to bed only to stare at the ceiling. The fifth time that happened I ripped the unit’s power cord out of the wall and tore the backup battery from its compartment. I may now die of smoke inhalation or from an intruder’s blunt instrument, but I will never be shocked out of bed again in my undies by that high-tech torture tool.

So you’ll have to pardon me for my less than enthusiastic response to the Savior’s return policy. I realize that the threat of a surprise visit is the best way to keep us lazy plebes on our toes. There’s nothing like a little uncertainty to motivate you to pick up your room. The possibility of getting run over by a truck is reason enough to always wear clean underwear. Religious people can’t afford to get sloppy. I knew somebody who knew somebody whose dad was an old-time type pastor. This guy took his job seriously and wanted always to be ready in case his flock needed him, so much so that he wore a dress shirt and pants to bed in case he was called out during the night. Uh, yeah. That’s what I thought too. I say if a pair of jeans and a T-shirt ain’t good enough, then they’re not sick enough for me to get out of a warm bed. Call me again in the morning for God’s sake.

Now if I wanted somebody to be ready for my arrival, I would make sure they knew exactly when I was going to show up. That way they could wash the sheets, tidy up the place a bit, and stock the fridge with a few of my favorite things. Nothing’s worse than unexpected visitors. That happened to me one time. We had forgotten that we’d invited them over; I mean, completely forgot. So when they showed up at our door, we wondered what they were doing there. They, of course, picked up on the vibe. Together we did an awkward afternoon until they left, no doubt taken aback by our lame hospitality. We realized that we’d screwed up but were still glad to get them out of our hair. We have never heard from them since. Whew.

So what I’m saying here is that maybe Jesus might want to rethink the thief in the night approach—though the fact that Jesus is clueless about the date of the event makes it hard for him to be specific. Maybe if he explained this to his dad we could get more details. I, for one, would like a little bit more of a heads up on it. There are a lot of cool things I’d like to do before Jesus stops by, and I’d just as soon not get caught in my BVDs, if you know what I mean. Besides, calling ahead is only polite.

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