Since we endeavor to publish our posts around the same time each Saturday morning, this year is obviously a bit problematic because this Saturday is Christmas morning, and there’s a slight possibility that some of us may be a little distracted. So we’ll simply offer a brief observation and wish all of you an early and heartfelt Merry Christmas.
In a couple of days, this Christmas season will be winding down, and our focus will begin to change. We’ll shift our mental gears and start preparing for life getting back to normal (whatever that means these days). Most of us will be returning to work and resuming the tasks associated with our jobs. While we may or may not consider any spiritual ‘take-aways’ from another exposure to the Christmas story, I’d like to close this part of the season with a brief observation that I hope we can all take with us as 2022 approaches.
What Wasn’t Said ~
As I re-read Luke’s account of the events surrounding the most significant entrance of human life on planet earth since Adam took his first breath, I was fascinated by what he didn’t say. He takes us to a field outside Bethlehem and introduces us to a nameless group of guys. The scene he goes on to describe gets depicted and reenacted in tens of thousands of Christmas pageants every year, and many of us have been personally involved in them. What we may not have noticed or considered significant is that God didn’t prompt Luke to mention anything that seemed overtly spiritual about these guys or their behavior. He simply said:
Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. (Luke 2:8 NKJV)
The shepherds we’ve been reading about for nearly 2,000 years were definitely not the product of any of Israel’s vaunted rabbinical schools. They had not earned impressive religious credentials, nor is there anything to suggest that they were unusually well versed in spiritual matters. Otherwise, Luke’s description might have sounded something like this:
Now there was in the same country a special group of theologically gifted, ordained, and anointed shepherds holding an open-air debate and panel discussion regarding the spiritual hazards of engaging in personal contacts with Samaritans.
None of their individual spiritual goals are revealed either. If any of them were on a personal quest to know God better and to be more directly involved in serving Him, that didn’t find its way into Luke’s account. If that had been the case, maybe Luke would have pointed it out, sort of like this:
Now there was in the same country a gathering of shepherds who felt that the rituals and list of rules demanded by the Pharisees left them frustrated and empty, and they were seeking a genuine manifestation of God. They wanted to be directly involved in something real and undeniably miraculous.
Finally, we have no idea whether this group of shepherds had any musical talent or how they would have sounded as a choir. If they had outstanding singing voices, or if anyone in the group could offer instrumental accompaniment, the text never mentions it. We could speculate that the angels picked them because they knew the whole worship session would sound so much better, but if that’s the case, it wasn’t revealed either. Had their talent been a motivating factor in getting special treatment from God, Luke would probably not have overlooked it and the text could have looked like this:
Now there was in the same country an incredible praise band made up of some gifted and talented shepherds. The group gathered in a field outside of town one evening to serenade the sheep and to finalize the arrangements for a fresh worship series they’d been working on.
A Little Facetiousness … Making a Point ~
I’m being a bit ridiculous, of course. The truth is that all of us know that there was nothing about the shepherds’ conduct or personal qualifications that attracted God’s attention. They were ordinary guys engaged in the less-than-thrilling spiritual endeavor of simply doing their job, and in the midst of that, God showed up and changed their whole outlook on life. That is the take-away that fills me with hope and encouragement as we head back to normal and as 2022 begins to unfold.
The wonderful truth is that God is often much more impressed when we simply do our job than when we try to attract His attention by performing rituals or conducting religious routines. We don’t need to try to present ourselves as some kind of spiritual elitist to get God to notice us. Intimate contact with us has been His end game from the beginning, and we had no part in motivating Him to want that. The incredible proclamation the angels delivered to those ordinary guys about what had gone on in that Bethlehem stable is the supreme revelation of what God’s heart toward us is like.
He Already Knows ~
How could we ever think He isn’t paying attention to us as we go about our daily work when He knows how many hairs are on our head? How could we think He doesn’t already know where we are, how we feel, what we need, or what our hopes and dreams are when there isn’t a sparrow that falls to the ground without His knowledge?
Throughout history, God has unexpectedly dropped in and revealed Himself during someone’s ordinary workday–or night. New revelations can happen, new directions can emerge, new doors can be opened, new love can be found, new hope can erupt, and new faith can arise when we’re just honestly, faithfully, and diligently doing our job. I’m convinced that God smiles when we head off to work or engage in our mundane routines with no more to offer than who we really are, with a heart that is available to Him. The question is not what we might try to do to attract His attention, but how we react when He shows up.
None of us really knows what life holds for us beyond our Christmas celebrations, but the God whose love never lets us out of His sight may choose to drop in unannounced somewhere again. It could be your workplace next time – or mine.
As you celebrate Christmas 2021 and the new year that follows, may the reality of the incarnation of Christ and the possibilities that Jesus brought to all of us ordinary, lost, broken, and helpless sinners, just like the shepherds of old, move us to embrace the wonder and purpose of that first Christmas night – and every new dawn after it, with inexpressible love, irrepressible joy, inexplicable peace, and resilient hope.
May each of you, dear readers, experience a Most Blessed and MERRY CHRISTMAS!
“TWEETABLES” ~ Click to tweet and share from the pull quotes below. Each one links directly back to this article through Twitter . . .
- “The shepherds were ordinary guys engaged in the less-than-thrilling spiritual endeavor of simply doing their job, and in the midst of that, God showed up and changed their whole outlook on life.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “God is often much more impressed when we simply do our job than when we try to attract His attention by performing rituals or conducting religious routines. Intimate contact with us has been His end game from the beginning.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “The incredible proclamation the angels delivered to those ordinary shepherds about what had gone on in that Bethlehem stable is the supreme revelation of what God’s heart toward us is like.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “How could we ever think God isn’t paying attention and doesn’t already know where we are, how we feel, what we need, or what our hopes and dreams are when there isn’t a sparrow that falls to the ground without His knowledge?” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “New revelations can happen, new directions can emerge, new doors can be opened, new love can be found, new hope can erupt, and new faith can arise when we’re just honestly, faithfully, and diligently doing our job.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
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