December 18, 2022 • Life for Leaders
Scripture — Luke 1:1-4
Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed.
For many of us – but not all of us – Christmas is a time to get a break from work. Yet there is much in the biblical narrative of the birth of Jesus that makes connections between work and Christmas. For example, were it not for Luke’s hard work, we wouldn’t have the beloved Christmas story found in the Gospel that bears Luke’s name.
Today’s devotion is part of the series: Work in Light of Christmas.
What does Christmas have to do with work? I expect many of us would answer this question by saying, “Not much! Thanks be to God!” One of the gifts of Christmas is getting at least one day off, though millions of people do still work on Christmas Day, either because it’s required or because they can’t quite get away from their digital leashes. (When I was a pastor, Christmas Eve was one of my hardest days of work in the year, which ended gloriously early on Christmas morning as our midnight communion service concluded. Of course in years like 2022, when Christmas Day comes on a Sunday, pastors are still at work, along with police officers, air traffic controllers, Seven-Eleven clerks, hospital nurses, and so many others.)
Of course, if we think of work as more than just our paid occupations, then Christmas can actually require lots of extra work. After all, somebody has to buy and wrap all of those Christmas presents, not to mention confronting the “some assembly required” challenge they may present. Moreover, somebody has to buy, cook, and serve the holiday food, and then clean up after the meal. I know people who spend dozens of hours in December sending Christmas cards to their friends and associates. They’re working harder than ever. And so on, and so on. You get the point, I’m sure.
Beginning today, I’d like to take several days to reflect on some connections between Christmas and work. I did this several years ago, but I’d like to give it another shot. I’m going to take my cue, not from the experiences of work and Christmas I’ve noted above, but rather from the Christmas story in the Gospel of Luke. My plan is to reflect with you on portions of this beloved narrative that may give us an unexpectedly Christmastime perspective on work.
The first thing that strikes me as I begin reading Luke from the perspective of work is that we wouldn’t have this narrative apart from the hard work of its author. God didn’t just drop the Gospel of Luke down from heaven. Rather, somebody labored diligently over this story of Jesus. Tradition identifies the writer of the third gospel with Luke, a medical doctor and companion of Paul. While this traditional identification might well be accurate, the text itself doesn’t make this clear. What it does reveal is that the author of Luke worked very hard on this gospel. He “carefully” investigated a wide array of oral traditions and written accounts of the ministry of Jesus (Luke 1:2-3). Then, on the basis of his careful research, he sought to “write an orderly account” so that someone named “Theophilus . . . may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed” (1:4). The introduction to the third gospel portrays its author as a serious historian/biographer, one who has labored intensely to produce the gospel we know as Luke.
Whether Luke intended his gospel for more than just one primary reader is something scholars like to debate. But, no matter what he envisioned, I’m pretty sure that the writer of the third gospel did not imagine that millions upon millions of people would be reading his “orderly account” almost twenty centuries after it was written. And I’m positive that Luke did not envision his story being acted out millions of times each year in Christmas plays and nativity scenes. I’ll bet Luke never even saw a child dressed up like a sheep!
The case of Luke and his gospel reminds me that we don’t really know the ultimate impact of our work. What we consider to be significant may turn out to be one more instance of what Ecclesiastes calls “vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). Or, what we take for granted may end up being influential in ways we never envisioned. (We can be quite sure that Franz Gruber and Joseph Mohr never thought their little Christmas song would be sung on more than one Christmas Eve. It turns out, though, that “Silent Night” has had an unexpectedly long run.) So, when it comes to our work, our job is not to polish our legacy, but rather to work faithfully and diligently with whatever the Lord has given us to do, leaving the ultimate results of our labors to God.
What connections do you make between work and Christmas?
To what extent do you have to work on or around Christmas Day?
As you think about the birth of Jesus, can you think of ways it is relevant to your work? If so, what connections suggest themselves to you?
As you work in this season of the year –whether for pay or not – think about how your work might be informed by the reality of Christmas?
Gracious God, in this season of Advent, as we prepare for the celebration of Christmas, we thank you for your presence and grace. In particular, we thank you today for Luke and for the hard work he invested in the writing of the gospel that bears his name.
Help us, Lord, to be faithful stewards of the work you have given to us. Even though it may not seem to us to have eternal significance, may we do our work in faithfulness to you, trusting you with the results. Use us, Lord, for your purposes and glory. 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’s online commentary. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: God at Work (Luke 1, 2, and 4).
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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.