Read Luke 2:8-20.
What do you suppose the shepherds did on the first Christmas after they heard the angels and after they went and saw the baby Jesus? Luke 2:20 tells us, “the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God…” That is, they went back to their flocks. The shepherds returned to work.
This may sound anticlimactic and, maybe, even a little unspiritual. But it’s neither. The truth is, that as new Christians, they returned and served their neighbor in love. And that is what all Christians do!
This is the primary way that God cares for His creation. As Martin Luther said in His Large Catechism, “We creatures are… the hands, channels, and means by which God gives all things. He gives to the mother breasts and milk to offer her child, and He gives corn and all kinds of produce from the earth for nourishment.” (LC I 26)
Just suppose for one moment that in North America everything were to shut down for a few days, and everyone would stop working. There would be no stores open, no fields plowed, no 911 calls, no police or fire fighters, no factories producing goods, no one to piolet planes, no one to make toilet paper. Wait… What?
We witnessed something close to this because of Covid. But those shutdowns were planned and paced. However, just imagine if everything shut down instantaneously! Planes would literally fall out of the sky. Every car on the highway would crash. Babies being nursed on their mother’s breast would fall to the ground. If everyone stopped working all at the same time it’d be a total catastrophe. Imagine what a mess it would make and how long it would take to clean up.
It just goes to show the incredibly orchestrated way in which God provides for creation. He uses us. He uses you. Otherwise there would be catastrophe.
The worker on the powerline pole may think he is engaged in making a living for himself and his family, and he is. But God has also arranged things in such a way that the worker is also up there serving you and me, providing a much needed service. Likewise, the Lord has made it so that your efforts and work benefit countless others—people you do not even know—in ways that you cannot fathom.
Of course, if the worker on the powerline pole is a Christian, he knows that he does not do that work to justify himself before God. He understands and believes that his righteousness before God is the righteousness of Christ, which he receives through faith. His sense of worth comes from knowing Christ. He has not self-esteem but Christ-esteem. For as Paul put it, (Galatians 2:20) “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
Because of Jesus’ work on the cross and the menial way He served others during His earthly life, no task then is too small or insignificant for the Christian. The world may think of changing diapers or operating a trash truck as a menial or despised chore, but when these activities form a part of the Christian’s vocation, they can be ways to love God and serve the neighbor.
It’s not like we have anything to prove to anyone. Jesus has done everything that really matters. Now we can be like the shepherds and return – even to ordinary or dirty work—rejoicing and praising God for all that we have seen and heard.
Come to think of it, the trash man who rides on the back of the trash truck as it comes by my house every Monday morning always waves at me if I happen to be outside. He spends eight hours dumping other people’s trash cans, but he’s is one of the friendliest guys I know. What a wonderful thing!
Questions to ponder:
- What dirty work or small tasks do you grumble about? What ways do these small things help others around you?
- When it comes to the big important tasks and jobs that we do, who are we trying to impress—other people or God?
O God, You resist the proud and give grace to the humble. Grant me true humility after the likeness of Your only Son that I might never be arrogant and prideful and thus provoke Your wrath. In lowliness, like the shepherds on that first Christmas, let me be a partaker of the gifts of Your peace and Your grace; through Jesus Christ my Lord. Help me to see and understand Your place for me in each and every day, and in tasks big and small, let me see how Your love flows through me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.