On this morning in which much of the world is celebrating Christmas in one way or another, I know how my friends at the Cairn Farm in Coleraine, Northern Ireland are spending it. At around 4:30 AM their time, they got up, just as they do every day, and went out in the pitch blackness to milk and then feed their cows. The process took them around 3 hours – perhaps longer today because they will have given most of their employees the day off to be with their families. My friends will steal some time with their own family during the day before returning to the barn at around 4:00 PM to repeat the milking and feeding process all over again.
Milking cows can be dirty work, but it needs to be done – twice a day every, single day of the year. There are no exceptions. This is the type of responsibility that most people want no part of – it is simply too demanding and it requires too many sacrifices to be responsible for hundreds of animals, which need daily care.
Driving back with one of these farmer friends, an elder in the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Northern Ireland, after a full day of synod meetings, we talked about the mindset that is required to be a dairy farmer. We were arriving back home at around 11:30 PM, and he was going to be in the barn again in just a few hours for the morning milking before returning to the Synod meetings for the remainder of the day. This situation was not noteworthy to my friend, who pointed out that nights involving little sleep were a common occurrence for him. Even though a cow might have trouble calving or any number of other problems might arise in the middle of the night, the morning milking would still need to be done.
My friend explained it this way (you’ll have to imagine the Northern Irish accent): “In all the years I’ve been doing this, I never once thought about the fact that I’d only been in the bed two or three hours. All I thought about was the fact that those cows needed milking and it was my job to milk them.”
It never occurred to my friend to complain about his circumstances. He had a responsibility, a God-ordained duty to do and that was all that mattered. It would be a thing of beauty if we would all look at our own callings in the same way, and if we were able to pursue those callings more intensely than our personal comfort. Thank God that, even though we often fail in this regard, our Lord did not.
Jesus came from the glory of heaven to get dirty in our fallen world. He was given a calling by God. His sheep needed saving and it was His job to save them. There was nothing glamorous about it, and that is what is so astounding about the incarnation and work of Christ. He did what needed to be done – even though it included suffering, death and judgment. He was more concerned about fulfilling His calling than being comfortable. Although He did not have to do it, He willingly completed the work assigned to Him. Because He did that fully and completely, His Father exalted Him. It is only in Jesus that we find the joy of true forgiveness and the opportunity to serve God – even in the mundane and dirty work of life.
So whether you are a sleep-deprived parent or a spouse sitting at the bedside of a beloved or an employee called to faithfully perform tedious and repetitive work, may God grant you the grace you need to do it as an act of service to Jesus Christ. Jesus fulfilled His calling from God so that you and I could, in His strength, do likewise.
“5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”. (Philippians 2:5-11 NKJ)