But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour. – Matthew 24:43–44 (NRSV)
As an infant, our daughter was on oxygen. This meant that each night we had to wrap a tiny sensor around her big toe to monitor her oxygen levels as she slept.
The sensor was attached to the loudest alarm In. The. World.
Fortunately, her saturation levels never fell into a dangerous range. Unfortunately, the machine went off every time she moved her foot.
It’s hard to achieve a deep sleep when you know that any moment you may be woken by an air horn. After several sleepless nights with no real danger, we disconnected the alarm.
It did not improve our sleep.
Instead, with no machine to make sure she was safe, we had to. Waking in turn, again and again, to hover over her crib and listen to her breathe.
I’ve heard from other parents since that, oxygen or no, the result is the same. You never sleep as well after children. Even when they’re grown. You wake at the least sound and wonder if they are safe.
Jesus’ advice in Matthew sounds exhausting. Sleeping with one eye open. Or not at all. Waiting through the night for disaster to strike.
No wonder he was always promising that the end was coming soon. That our sleepless nights wouldn’t last long. The moment was at hand when we could finally trade our anxious vigil for the untroubled rest of beloved children.
Come, O Jesus, Come.
Vince Amlin is co-pastor of Bethany UCC, Chicago, and co-planter of Gilead Church Chicago, forming now.