January 2, 2022 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Luke 2:17-18 (NRSV)
When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them.
After the shepherds in the Christmas story visited the baby Jesus and his parents, they told everyone what they had seen and heard. One way we respond to the wonder of Christmas is by telling others about what God has done in Jesus. As we do this honestly and humbly, people who don’t know the real meaning of Christmas will come to a new understanding of God’s love in Christ.
So far in this series, Responding to the Wonder of Christmas, we’ve seen three responses of the shepherd in Luke 2: fear, resolution, and action. Today we’ll examine the next response: witness.
As the shepherds hurried to find the Savior lying in a manger, they were successful. Luke doesn’t give us the details, telling us only that the shepherds “found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger” (2:17). We do learn a bit about what they did afterward, however. As Luke puts it, “When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them” (2:17-18). Now, given that Bethlehem had a small population and that the shepherds weren’t exactly socially well-connected, it’s likely that “all who heard it” were a relatively small number of people. Nevertheless, we get the sense that the shepherds were so excited about what they had seen and heard that they became enthusiastic, spontaneous witnesses. They couldn’t keep quiet about what God had done and was doing.
One of the ways we can respond to the reality of Christmas is by sharing it with others. This includes those who already know and believe the story. When we gather with believing family and friends, when we come together for Christmas worship, we talk about the wonder of Christmas. This is one of the great joys of our Christmas celebrations.
But we also have the opportunity to share the good news of Christmas with those who don’t know about Jesus and his birth. There was a time when you could assume that just about everybody in the United States and Europe knew the basics of the Christmas story. But with the explosion of globalization and secularization, a growing number of folks in our part of the world, not to mention throughout the globe, have little idea of what Christmas is really all about.
I know that for many of us, the idea of “evangelizing” makes us nervous. Our pastors might hammer away on the importance of our sharing our faith with others, but we hesitate. It’s not only that we don’t want to look foolish. We also don’t want to offend folks. We don’t want to erect barriers between them and God. So we choose to be Christ-like in our actions and hope that somehow the reality of Jesus is communicated to those who don’t know him.
Now, I want to commend strongly the importance of Christ-like action. If we want others to know about Jesus, we would do well to act in the self-giving, loving mode of our Lord. When Christians act selfishly, boorishly, or hypocritically, we turn people away from Christ, not toward him.
But I also want to commend bearing witness to Jesus. The shepherds serve as models worth emulating.
What did the shepherds do? We have no reason to believe they blustered about as if they had all the answers. We don’t get the picture of them preaching sermons to unwilling victims. What we observe is people talking openly about what they had seen and heard. They were sharing their experience, their story. They were simply telling the truth of their lives in an unrehearsed and unguarded way.
In response, those who heard were amazed (Luke 2:18). You get the feeling that these hearers didn’t know quite what to think. They weren’t converted or persuaded. Rather, they were filled with wonder, maybe with questions, maybe with awe.
You and I can be like the shepherds. We can talk honestly and openly about what we have seen and heard. We can share our experience, even with those who know little or nothing about Jesus. I’ve had the opportunity to do this a number of times in the last year, and what has amazed me is how open non-Christian folk are to hearing my story. I know this isn’t always the case. I once debated Christopher Hitchens, at the time one of the world’s most vehement atheists, for three hours on the radio. His openness score was rather low. But, for the most part, I find that if I talk honestly and humbly, if I share my experience and my beliefs, people are glad to listen.
I expect many Life for Leaders readers are going back to work today for the first time since Christmas. When you see your colleagues, no doubt you’ll ask each other, “So, how were your holidays?” If you’re passing in the hall or saying hi at the beginning of a Zoom meeting, chances are you’ll say, “Great” or “Fine” and that’s about it. But if you are in a place for a slightly longer conversation, you might have the opportunity to be like the shepherds, to bear witness to what mattered to you most this Christmas. You might even say something like this, “I had a good time with family and friends. But, for me, the most wonderful part of Christmas is the idea that God actually became human. This always blows me away.” You don’t have to elaborate. If the person with whom you’re talking wants more, they’ll say something. If that was more than enough, they’ll change the subject to the college football championship or something. No harm, no foul.
But sometimes, if you’re honest, humble, and brief, you’ll find that people are amazed. Perhaps they’re amazed to find an honest, humble, and brief Christian. But perhaps they’re amazed because they never before knew what Christmas is really all about.
How do you feel about the idea of talking openly about your experience of the meaning of Christmas with others?
If someone were to ask you what Christmas really means to you, what would you say?
Ask the Lord for an opportunity to be a humble witness to the reality of Christmas. Then, be attentive when God opens a door for you.
Gracious God, thank you for the witness of the shepherds. Help me, Lord, to be like them. May I be honest about what Christmas really means to me. Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. A hymn on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: When God Almighty Came to Be One of Us (Hymn)
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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.