And there were shepherd living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. (Luke 2:8-9)
The angel appeared to the shepherds at work. These young children (most likely) were not taking religious classes at the synagogue when the angel appeared. They were not praying at home. Instead, they were working – tending sheep. Important work, meaningful work, but work nonetheless. These sheep needed to be led and the shepherds had to make sure none of them wandered off or were attacked.
I am guessing that this might not have been where the shepherds expected to see God’s glory shine, hear a message from an angel, and receive the good news of the Messiah. God’s angel appears as a terrifying interruption to the normal routine of their work.
And yet, work was where God chose to meet them. In the midst of their good, meaningful work, God is there. He doesn’t wait until it is convenient. He doesn’t wait until they are ready or have ‘prepared their hearts.’ Instead, the angel appears as a terrifying, but ultimately beautiful interruption.
Two aspects of this story jumped out at me. First, God allowed his glory to shine at their place of work. Zechariah receives his vision in the temple, but the angel appears to the shepherd while they were on the job. Among stinky sheep, God’s glory was on display. God’s glory can shine not only in the sanctuary, but in the pasture, the field, and the shop. God is concerned with our work and can make his glory shine there.
Second, God doesn’t seem to wait until it is convenient for us before he shows up. Like the angel in the field, God often shows up in our every day world and interrupts our tight schedule and carefully laid plans. The angel showed up and put God’s glory on display among the sheep, but God didn’t pick the best time for the shepherds. The shepherds were not asked to check their calendar for the best time to make a visit with this baby in a manger. God didn’t consult them or try to ‘fit into their schedule.’ His presence came and overwhelmed their plans with good news.
As the body of Christ, we set aside time each week to gather together and enter God’s presence. We sing, we pray, we listen to the Word, we love our God and our neighbor. We regularly gather to be in the presence of God. We anticipate God’s presence in worship. But how often do we anticipate his presence in our work? Do we expect to see God’s glory shine in the shop or in the field? Do we expect God to interrupt? And if He did, would we try to fit him into our schedule or would we, like the shepherds, ‘hurry off [to find] Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger’ (v. 16)?