Advent 4 Saturday / Christmas Eve
And the shepherds returned, praising and lauding God for all they had heard and seen, as they had been told.
This, too, is a good, fine teaching that the shepherds, after they were illumined and came to the right knowledge of Christ, do not run off into the desert as the crazy monks and nuns run off into the monasteries. Rather, they remain in their vocation and serve their neighbor in this way. For the true faith does not urge anybody to leave their vocation and take up a new lifestyle, as the crazy monks did. They thought they could not be saved unless they acted differently than other people: If they dressed, ate, drank, woke, and slept like other people, it would be a common thing and would bring no special renown…But Christ does not come to change outward affairs or to destroy creation or to change it. This is why we should dress, feed, nourish, and work our bodies as needed and as usual. This is God’s creation and order; and Christ leaves it intact. He did not come to change them. If need be, we can change them ourselves by dressing differently and changing our diet, which is a simple, insignificant change. We do not need the Lord Christ for it, and we certainly should not praise such change as a service to God and a higher spirituality. But the true change Christ did come to bring about is that a man become different inwardly in the heart…It did not occur to the shepherds that Christ the Savior was to be born. But now that they hear it from the angels, they run to town and seek the child. When they had found it and preached about it, and when they had thanked God for such grace and revelation, they come back to their flock. Their coats and staffs were as before; they remain shepherds and do not change their outward behavior. This is teaching and living in a Christian manner! For Christ did not come to change creation until that day when the soul is to be perfect and made new. This only begins to take place here by means of the gospel. Then the body will be changed as well so that we
no longer need heated rooms, clothing, or other such things, but will float in the air as the angels and shine as the beautiful stars. Then all outward things will also be changed. But before that day, all outward creation is to remain as God ordered it and no change is to take place. Let everyone act accordingly in his station in life and vocation, lead a chaste, righteous, and pious life, and know that such outward life does not hinder the Christian faith. Christ also does not ask whether you outwardly are a man or woman, emperor or farm hand, mayor or bailiff. He leaves all this in place and says: “You are to be obedient to God in such station and life and are not to leave them behind.” This is why the shepherds did not do more than lauding and praising God. They did not say: “From now on, I will serve God by running off into the desert and by no longer doing anything in the world among the people, but only serve God in a contemplative life.” This is because this is not serving God, but sidestepping obedience and serving yourself. But serving God happens when you remain at the station in life where God has placed you, so that a man remains a man, a woman a woman, an emperor an emperor, a burgher a burgher. You should learn to know God in your station and praise him there; then you serve him well. For God does not need your hairy shirt, your fasting, your cowl; he needs you to be obedient in your station and
vocation and to praise his Son. Then you serve him well.