December 28, 2016 • Life for Leaders
When [the shepherds] had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
Most of us get time off at Christmas. We get at least a day or two in which we don’t have to work. Some of us stretch our holiday vacations to a week or even more, visiting relatives or heading for the ski slopes.
Then we go back to work. Christmas is over, or so it feels, in spite of the fact that the liturgical celebration of the birth of Christ lasts for twelve days. Yet, it’s hard to feel especially Christmassy when we’re staring at an overflowing email inbox and a painfully long to do list. Merry Christmas? Hardly. More like, “Bah! Humbug!”
But is there a way to take Christmas back to work with us? I’m not thinking about playing Christmas music in January or greeting people with “Merry Christmas” throughout the year. Rather, I’m wondering how the reality of Christmas might transform our experience of our work.
In Luke 2:17-20 we see examples of people who experienced the first Christmas going back to work. Mary, we’re told, “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (2:19). Though Luke doesn’t say it explicitly, we know that she did her treasuring and pondering while caring for her newborn infant, which is no small act of work. For Mary, labor didn’t end with the birth of Jesus. It just began. Yet, in the midst of her mothering efforts, she reflected upon what had happened to her and what she had done, paying special attention to the “treasures” God had given her.
Perhaps you and I could continue to “treasure” and “ponder” the good news of Christmas when we’re back out our daily work. Perhaps we could rejoice in the truth of Emmanuel, God with us, always, even as we tackle our email inboxes and lengthened to do lists.
The shepherds also went back to work after they experienced the glory of the first Christmas. On their way back to the fields, they “spread the word concerning what had been told them” (2:17). When they made it back to the place where their flocks were gathered, the shepherds were “glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen” (2:20). Yes, they were once again working, taking care of their sheep, but their work was now filled with praise.
Perhaps you and I could find ways to praise and glorify God in our daily work. What if you were to take a five-minute break in the middle of the day to offer thanks and praise for God’s gifts? How might your work be different if you were intentional about glorifying God through it? What if you were to pray at the beginning and middle of your day, “Dear Lord, be glorified in all I do at work today”?
I’m all for Christmas celebrations and I’m all for taking time off from work. But the good news of Christmas is that God entered into real, full, ordinary human life through Jesus, the Son of God. God isn’t present only in special holidays, but in every facet of our lives, including our work. The gospel of Christmas is that when we go back to work, God is there, with us, in us, guiding us, blessing us, being glorified in us.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
How do you feel about going back to work after your Christmas break (if you had one)? Why do you feel this way?
How might you build into your pattern of work a way of “pondering” and “treasuring” the works of God?
How might you find a way to “praise” and “glorify” God in the context of your work?
How might your work be different if you really believed that God was with you?
Gracious God, as we begin to head back to work, we thank you for the example of Mary and the shepherds.
Like Mary, may we find ways to ponder and treasure your gifts in the context of our work.
Like the shepherds, may we be free to share with others the good news of Christmas, and may we praise and glorify you even when we’re hard at work.
Thank you, Lord, for being with us always, for being present as we work. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online Bible commentary.
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.
Did you mean to have “not” in last sentence of the sixth paragraph? I think you may have meant “now”: “Yes, they were once again working, taking care of their sheep, but their work was not filled with praise.”