The Boss May Come Today!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

This month before Christmas is known as Advent, a preparation time for the coming of Jesus as the baby of Bethlehem.  However, the first Sunday of Advent focuses on the second coming of Jesus as the Lord of heaven and earth who will bring history to an end.

Last week I spoke about Mark chapter 13 where Jesus told his disciples something of the End of the World.  Jesus simply told them that no-one knows when the End will come, not even him, but that his followers need to be watchful and prepared for his return, going about God’s work.

Below I have written up the story I told last Sunday about one of the greatest-ever human survival stories, about the Antarctic Expedition led by Ernest Shackleton 100 years ago.

After Roald Amundsen won the race to the South Pole in 1911, Shackleton decided to lead the first Trans-Antarctic Expedition, passing through the South Pole.  On August 3, 1914, the Endurance left England with a crew of about 30 men and Kiwi Captain Frank Worsley.  Shackleton was known as “The Boss”.  Leaving South Georgia Island on December 5, they headed for Vahsel Bay, Antarctica.  Their ship got frozen in the ice floes of the Weddell Sea on January 19, 1915, and they hoped to drift northward with the ice when it thawed, and try again.

On October 24 (over a year since they left England), the ship started to leak under the pressure of the ice and the crew abandoned ship to make camp with four lifeboats on the surrounding ice floe.  On November 21 the Endurance sank!

The group drifted north for two months, hoping to get close to Paulet Island where there were stores.  But on April 9, their ice floe broke in two and they had to board their lifeboats and head for the nearest land, the inhospitable Elephant Island, 350 miles from where the Endurance sank - the first time they had been on land for 497 days!

As Elephant Island was not near any shipping route, Shackleton decided to take a 20 foot lifeboat and head for the South Georgia whaling station, 800 nautical miles across the treacherous Southern Ocean!  The ship’s Kiwi carpenter closed in the boat for greater protection and he, Shackleton, Worsley and 3 others set sail on April 20.  After a 15 day journey through stormy seas, in constant fear of capsizing, and with only Worsley’s skills with a sextant to guide them, they miraculously found and landed on South Georgia.  Due to gale force winds they had to land on the opposite side to the whaling station and three of them travelled 32 miles over a mountain range to reach the station.  They did so, recovered the other three crew, and after three attempts, rescued the 22 men from Elephant Island on August 30th – two years after leaving England!

How did the men on Elephant Island survive and maintain their hope for 130 days of waiting?  Every morning their officer roused them with this statement, “Get ready.  The Boss may come today!”  What better motto for our lives as followers of Jesus!