And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks by night.
In the Fields
I’ve said this so often I hesitate repeating it. But it’s so vital to us all, straight or gay, old or young, I’m compelled to keep stressing it. God created every one of us as we are and put us where we are for a purpose—for His purpose. We don’t arrive with detailed job descriptions or designated areas of responsibility. God is the greatest on-the-job-training advocate there ever was. He matches talents He’s given us with the position He puts us in. Why we’re as we are or where we are may seem random and inconsequential. But when the day comes for us to rise to the occasion as only we can, we get what He intended all along.
Look at the shepherds. Overall, shepherding is lousy. It’s shift work, all day or all night, day in, day out, far removed from family and friends, the latest happenings, and whatnot. It’s just you, co-workers as socially and intellectually deprived as you, and dozens of sheep that, darling though they are, make for dull company. Your only thrills come from predators and strays. Monotony is maddening out in the fields. Then the night sky lights up. An angel announces what generations have longed to hear, saying you’ll be the first people on the planet to worship the Christ. You’re catapulted to your feet by a stunning musical finale. You head into town, not looking back once at the sheep you’re leaving behind, and suddenly it hits you. I’ve been stuck out here all this time for a reason—for this reason.
Once Jesus was born, the next order of business was third-party confirmation of His identity. Selecting shepherds to testify to His arrival was beyond brilliant. While everyone else slept, they were awake and alert, keeping watch; their account couldn’t be dismissed as a dream or drunken hallucination. Isolation from society’s political and religious wrangling exempted them from ulterior motives, discounting suspicions they hatched their story to raise their profile, because they were nobodies. Being completely out of touch, no way could they know Joseph came into Bethlehem with a pregnant wife, where they settled for the night, the birth that took place, or what the parents were told prior to that. The decision to abandon their flocks to greet the Christ Child was enough to make their story credible. They risked all they had to gain what they never imagined they’d live to see. Their testimony to God’s divine plan was impeccable.
Unless we’ve decided to plan our own lives and position ourselves accordingly, where we are is the best place to be. Whether or not we gather why, our responsibility is to stay alert, regardless how monotonous things get, because the time is coming when our purpose will be clear. In his prophecies of the Christ, Isaiah proclaimed, “The glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it.” (Isaiah 40.5) That’s exactly what happened with the shepherds: “The glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.” (Matthew 2.9) The angel told them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people.” (v10)
Our position and place in life may seem like the worst of all possible worlds. We may feel far removed from everything and everyone, stuck in lousy jobs, stranded with small-minded people or sheepish followers. But three different times, the Bible connects suffering to glory. 1 Peter 4.13 says, “But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” When God’s glory is revealed, it may be so far over the top it scares us. But we have nothing to fear. It will be good news, great joy for everyone. We’ll have an amazing story to tell. Until then, our job is keeping watch over responsibilities we’ve been given in places we’ve been sent.
We keep watch over responsibilities we've been given where we've been placed. The moment God's purpose is revealed, His glory is revealed.
(Tomorrow: Good Will to Men)