Third Shift God (or why we sing about smelly shepherds in church)

He sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good so be good for goodness’ sake.

How creepy is that, right?

Sounds more like a futuristic novel or a mystery about a stalker than a Christmas song for children.

The idea that someone sees everything we do can be unsettling. That’s why someone invented Santa. Back when moms routinely had large families, one have them must have come up with Santa in order to keep little ones in line when she was out of the room.

But, what can be a sobering thought for mischievous little ones or troublesome teens, can be an enormous encouragement to those who labor well at tasks that no one else sees.

No one human, that is. Because God never slumbers nor sleeps and He is ever watchful even over those of us who feel invisible.

There are men and women around the world doing mighty, heroic, compassionate, sacrificial things but no one knows.

These are the third shift faithful.

There are spouses holding and calming disoriented husbands or wives who awake with panic because of Alzheimer’s or who wrestle with pain from chronic illnesses.

There are moms praying late into the night over sleeping children, straying children, or sick children – battling for them on a celestial plane, bathed in the glow of night lights or listening to hospital monitors or watching for headlights in the driveway.

There are caregivers and first responders in a myriad of circumstances administering comfort, aid, rescue, consolation, and true joy while everyone around sleeps. There are young people standing behind registers and counters working hard, providing service, even when no one is looking.

There are dad’s sitting up working second and third jobs or crunching numbers to keep food on the table. And there are soldiers who aren’t even old enough to drink faithfully standing watch in lands far from home wondering if anyone is thinking of them.

That’s why I love shepherds.

Shepherds were not the rock stars of their day that the Christmas story makes them out to be. Until that band of angels showed up, shepherds were the invisible people of their day.

They were clinging to the bottom rung of society. People probably told shepherd jokes at the inns. They smelled bad. They spent hours alone and probably weren’t treasured too dearly by their own families who often chose the child with little potential for other tasks to go out to tend the flocks at night.

So, their acts of heroism – helping ewes through difficult births, defending the flock from hungry lions or wolves, and rescuing lost sheep often went unnoticed, unappreciated.

Their poetry and songs were performed for an audience of One.

Their faithfulness was taken for granted by everyone but the One who sees all.

And the joys they experienced – new lambs, light shows in the sky, or triumphing over danger – they rejoiced in these things alone, too.

But God sent a message to all invisible people who keep watch in the night when He chose to announce the birth of His Son to shepherds.

Think about it.

He’s God. His son could have been born anywhere at anytime. Certainly there were more important people who could have heard the news first. Babies are born in the daylight all the time.

I think God wanted everyone who labors faithfully but invisibly to know – He sees.

He sees everything. He knows all those times you choose to do the right thing when no one is looking. He shares your joy and He knows your sorrow. Even if no one else knows, He sees that you are a hero.

One day, everyone will know because He sees.

No one ever sang songs about shepherds until Jesus arrived on the scene. Well, not nice songs.

In heaven, they are writing songs about you, faithful ones.

So don’t lose heart in the late watches of the night. You are never alone. You are never unnoticed. God does not take your acts of love for granted.

To all those who tend and care and watch through the night, rejoice! The God of the Universe sees and One day He will tell us your story.

Until then, lift a mug of coffee to the shepherds who went before you and thank God for sending Jesus who faithfully Shepherds us through the watches of our long night.

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    The Conversation

  1. Michael W. says:

    Thank you, Lori, God bless you!

    In the still of the night,


  2. Lori… Great post. The invisible people are my heroes.

  3. Marcia says:

    I think I feel my Christmas spirit creeping in. The last few posts have been beautiful. . .
    Thanks for those.