December 26, 2022 • Life for Leaders
Scripture — Luke 2:8-9
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
In Luke’s Christmas story God interrupts people as they work. God interrupted Zechariah while he was working in the temple and the shepherds as they were working in the fields. We need to be ready for God to interrupt us as we work, leading us into some unexpected opportunity for serving others. Yet, at the same time, we need to be attentive to God’s presence as we work, offering our work as worship to God.
This devotion is part of the series: Work in Light of Christmas.
A few days ago, our Life for Leaders devotion was entitled “Sometimes God Interrupts Our Work.” As you may recall, we focused on Zechariah, whose work as a priest was interrupted by an angel with shockingly good but unsettling news. Today, we examine another instance in the Christmas narrative when God interrupted someone’s work.
This time, those whom God interrupted were not working in the temple in Jerusalem but in the fields near the village of Bethlehem. The Theology of Work commentary on this passage describes well what happened and what it might mean for us: “Like Zechariah the priest, the shepherds have their workday interrupted by God in a surprising way. Luke describes a reality in which an encounter with the Lord is not reserved for Sundays, retreats, or mission trips. Instead, each moment appears as a moment of potential in which God can reveal himself. The daily grind may serve to dull our spiritual senses, like the people of Lot’s generation whose routines of ‘eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building’ blinded them to the coming judgment on their city (Luke 17:28-30). But God is able to break into the midst of everyday life with his goodness and glory.” I couldn’t say it better than this!
Indeed, there are times when, in the midst of our daily work, God surprises us. We would do well to be attentive and open to such times. I think, for example, of times when, in the context of what seems like everyday work, I have sensed that God is up to something and wants me to join in. For example, some time ago I was meeting with someone to talk about the work of the De Pree Center. As I looked at him, the Spirit of God nudged me to ask, “How are you doing, personally?” He paused, sighed, and then shared a deep, personal struggle he was facing. I had the opportunity to listen and pray for him, even though this was not the point of our meeting.
But, in addition to interrupting us, God is also present with us in our work in other times as well, in the ordinary times, the common times, the unsurprising times. The shepherds in Luke 2, for example, were contributing to God’s work in the world by caring for their sheep. We need to learn to be aware of God’s presence in our work, even if our work is not obviously enjoyable or meaningful. I’m reminded of Brother Lawrence, author of the classic book, The Practice of the Presence of God. Lawrence learned to commune with God and delight in God’s presence even as Lawrence worked in the kitchen of his monastery, work he did not like at all.
So, as you do your work, by all means be ready for God to surprise you. God may very well interrupt you with an unexpected opportunity to serve others. Yet, at the same time, know that your work matters to God. God is present as you work and glorified when you offer your work to God as worship.
What has God given you to “shepherd” through your work?
Can you think of times when God has interrupted your work for something special? What happened? How did you respond?
Do you sense God’s presence in your daily work?
What helps you to be more attentive to the Lord in the midst of your work?
As you begin your daily work, whether paid or unpaid, say a brief prayer in which you offer your work to God.
Gracious God, thank you for sending angels to the shepherds. Thank you for announcing to them the wonderful news of the Savior’s birth.
Help me, Lord, to be open to ways you might interrupt my work. You may not send angels to me. But, even so, may I be attentive to you when I’m focusing on my everyday tasks. Help me to be aware of your presence in my ordinary work. Teach me, Lord, to serve you in my work, no matter what I am doing.
To you be all the glory! Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the High Calling archive, hosted by the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Advent Reflection: Peace.
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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.