There was another interesting purpose-driven life devotional this morning--"Mundane." It talked about how the shepherds were given tremendous news -- in charismatic/pentecostal speak, a 'fresh divine revelation' -- and they glorified God, but afterwards they went back to their fields.
I always thought that was kinda sad. Why would you go back to your boring, everyday life after such a powerful encounter with God and angels? I guess part of me always assumed that the shepherds were just not too bright. After all, some 30 years later, another group of men would leave everything behind to be with Jesus... and they didn't even have the benefit of the angels and heavenly light.
Why didn't the shepherds abandon their animals and camp out around the manger? Why didn't they form an organized group of followers and transform their world with the "The Stable-Driven Life" message? If this had happened in modern times, the manger would have been turned into a shrine or revival "hot spot" overnight... someone would be out there collecting "holy straw" and including it in a direct mail campaign... by the time the wise men showed up, the stable would have had indoor plumbing and seating for 3000. But I digress!
I always thought that the shepherds had missed the point. They were given this awesome divine opportunity, and they blew it! But Jon Walker (the writer the of the Purpose-Driven devotional) looks at it from a completely different angle. He sees the shepherds as a model for us today. He writes: "Yes, [God] takes us to the mountaintop; he shows us great miracles and wonders, but he doesn’t leave us there because he knows the strength of our faith grows in the day-to-day, mundane work required in the fields and among the flocks we tend."
This morning, I realized that I've had a tendency to misunderstand this verse. I think I imagined the shepherds to be a little too much like me. I imagined them coming to this awesome place, worshiping and glorifying God while they were there, and once they were done with their worship service, they went back to their normal lives. But that's not really what it says: it says that they returned to their flocks glorifying God. They went back to their responsibilities, but they were changed.
Those shepherds were smarter than I am sometimes...