Many of us reread the Christmas story every year with a sense of routine, or perhaps even staleness. It can be all too easy in our rereading to miss how the Christmas story challenges us in new ways.
In the following excerpt from Honey from the Rock, a brand-new book from Lexham Press, Kuyper invites us to put ourselves in the shepherds’ shoes. Instead of passing over their work as part of the background, Kuyper challenges us to learn from their watch over all that God entrusted to them.
Keeping Watch over Their Flock at Night
And there were shepherds in the fields nearby keeping watch over their flock at night. Luke 2:8
Who qualifies as a shepherd over a flock of people?
Aren’t the king and governing authorities shepherds of the people? Aren’t ministers of the Word also shepherds of the church? Aren’t fathers and mothers shepherds of their children and their entire family? Look, aren’t all those who are vested with authority over other people shepherds? This includes leaders over hundreds, managers of organizations, people with responsibility for the needy, teachers in all schools, and even those who lead the huge flock of human society by their influence, example, or directives.
To all of these it can be said: “You are the shepherd of those entrusted to you; they are your flock!” And there, in Bethlehem’s night, the all-knowing God comes to all of us asking whether it can really be said of us: “And they were watching over their flock at night!”
The shepherd keeps watch at night out of concern for his profit margin. If he didn’t, some wolf would snatch his lambs. So he better do so. He needs to keep bread on the table. His sheep live on grass, but he lives off his sheep.
The little band in Bethlehem’s fields is picturesque and inspiring. But in itself that image conveys no great moral truth.
A shepherd only becomes great, prosperous, and praiseworthy when their shepherding is all about people’s souls. That happens when the shepherding of their flock is not about what they can get out of it but about what they put into it. It happens when they are totally dedicated to that kind of shepherding. It occurs when shepherds dedicate their lives to their work.
Don’t think now about the kings, who will have to give account to God. Don’t think about the ministers of the Word, who are answerable to the One who sends them. Think only about yourself. Think about your shepherding. Think about the flock entrusted to you. Think about your own responsibility to keep watch over that flock at night. What does your conscience say to you about that? The year is coming to a close. Days are flying by. Give an account of yourself, reckoning with your own soul. Brothers and sisters, I ask, what have you done with your flock? What have you done with those about whom the Lord said to you: “I entrust these to you!”
So, tell me then, how do things stand with you on that matter? Are you keeping watch at night?1
Finish this meditation, and read 199 others in the new translation of Abraham Kuyper’s work, Honey from the Rock, released today by Lexham Press.