Luke 2:8 – And there were shepherds abiding with their flocks by night.
Who would leave the shepherds out of the Christmas story? Not me, that's for sure. You see, I'm one of them.
The passage from Luke says there were shepherds in the fields that night, keeping watch over their flocks by night. Think about that for a moment. In his "Daily Bible Study," William Barclay says that shepherds were looked down upon because they couldn't keep up with all the ritual hand-washing and all the other myriad details of the Jewish religious laws. The shepherds were too busy looking after the constant demands of their sheep. Read the passage again. They were sleeping out in the fields with the sheep. It's winter and no creature comforts. Just a bunch of guys doing their jobs on the night shift.
Christmas is for most people a family time. But look closely around you, and you will see some Christmas shepherds today. People whose jobs require them to be working, while you're enjoying the seasonal fun.
I invite you to take a moment and call the roll of your Christmas shepherds. Police officers, fire-fighters, heath care workers, utility crews, broadcasters, pilots and airport workers, train crews and bus drivers; this list goes on and on. And yes, computer people. Big data centres don't stop. Several years ago, I recall my supervisor saying she was going in for a 7 a.m. start Christmas Day.
Let's not forget clergy. While most of us are relaxing, women and men of the cloth have the added chores of preparing for a number of extra services, in a short period of time. They may be under extra pressure to minister to people they see only once every year, or to complete strangers.
While you're making merry, there's an unseen army of people on the job. I'll think of them this year, and the sacrifices they have to make over the holidays. If you're at a Christmas Eve church service, I'll say a prayer for you, and, if you want, remember me hard at work in the data centre. And may we both think of the Saviour, whose coming is the reason for the season.
Prayer: Lord, Your angels were "on the job" when You were born on earth. They joined the shepherds in wondering at Your birth. In this season, help us spare a moment to remember those who must work so we may enjoy our leisure. Let's remember especially those whose work brings them into danger. Amen.