Today is Monday. The Monday after Christmas. It's tough after I don't know how many days of family get-togethers, candlelight worship services, quiet times around the Christmas tree, and the endless parade of gift openings and cookie trays and all the rest, to face a Monday morning. In a few minutes I'll head back to work. The garbage needs to go out to the curb this morning. I have a snowblower that needs some work, I have a handful of bills that need to be paid today, and a lamp in one of my pickup taillights is burned out. It feels a little like a Monday.
The shepherds returned. They did not suddenly give up their important work of tending sheep. Yes, it was important. Though it made them into outcasts from the religious and social establishment in their culture, their work as shepherds was vital to both the religious and the economic life of their people. Without shepherds the sheep would be at risk. Without sheep the Jewish people in the time of Jesus would have been at risk. The shepherds returned.
However, Luke tells us more than that they simply went back to their sheep. They had met Jesus, and they had been changed. These outcast shepherds returned "glorifying and praising God." They had received the promise of God and it had begun its work of transforming them. Luke tells us (Luke 2:20) that the shepherds were praising God for all they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. They had heard God's promise from the angel, they had acted on that word, and they had experienced God's faithfulness.
What word from God have you heard? What promise have you received this Christmas? If there is no other word that has lodged in your heart these last days, I invite you to take this one from Romans 8:38-39:
38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
What a powerful post-Christmas promise! These words take God seriously that Jesus is "Emmanuel" -- God with us. That desire of God's heart to live among his people comes back again and again in the Bible. It is at the heart of what Christmas means.
Don't let yourself go back to Monday mornings after Christmas as though nothing had changed. Let yourself, like the shepherds, act on this promise and be changed by it! God has made his home in the midst of his creation, first with the birth of Jesus, and then with the coming of his Spirit at Pentecost. He resides in his people. He is present, near; "immanent" is the fancy theological word. He is here.