The following reflection on the connection between Christmas and worker justice was written by Pastor Nick Utphall of St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church. For similar reflections on other holy days see the resources page of our website.
The familiar words of the Christmas story say, “In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see– I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” (Luke 2:8-11)
The first to hear this “good news of great joy” were shepherds. These shepherds were working long hours, diligent through the night. They were out in the dangerous wild, facing all sorts of inclement conditions. Shepherds tended to be the outcasts of society, stuck doing the work that others did not want to do, avoided doing. Their job could be romanticized from the past, in line with Moses and King David, even while they were contemporaneously shunned. Though they were important to the functioning of their culture, these humble shepherds were often excluded and ignored. But when the heavenly messenger shows up, the good news is proclaimed first to these workers.
It says they were terrified. I imagine that relates in part to their position; they were not in a place usually to expect good news. Like many of us, the shepherds perhaps expected more bad news, more demands, a harder life. Yet they instead hear a hopeful message. And this is some of what continues to make this angelic announcement good news in our world today. This is a promise “of great joy for all the people.” God’s ongoing work in our world will not leave out those who have been pushed to the margins, who struggle with hard and difficult lives in trying to make a living. Far from the lying lip service that continues to abound, God keeps striving to bring good news to shepherds, to the regular workers, to those who seem so far from the places of power. Thank you for your role in bringing good news and sharing God’s work in our society.