The Calvinist International: A Christmas Meditation by Abraham Kuyper. How about this punch in the gut:
The little band [of shepherds] in Bethlehem’s fields is picturesque and inspiring. But in itself that image conveys no great moral truth.
A shepherd only becomes great, prosperous, and exalted when his or her shepherding is all about peoples souls. That happens when the pasturing of their flock is not about what they can get out of it, but about what they can put into it. It happens when they are totally dedicated to that kind of pasturing. It occurs when shepherds devote their lives to their work.
Don’t think now about the king, who will have to give account to God. Don’t think about the minister of the Word, who is answerable to the One who sent him. Think only about your own situation. Think about your shepherding. Think about the flock entrusted to you. Think about your own responsibility to keep watch over that flock at night. What does your conscience say to you about that? The year is coming to a close. Days are flying by. Give an account of yourself; hold a reckoning of your own soul. Brothers and sisters, what, I ask what, have you done with your flock? What have you done with those about whom the Lord said to you, “I entrust these to you!”
So, tell me then, how do things stand with you on that matter? Are you keeping watch at night?
“Keeping watch at night,” as you well know, does not mean that you sit alongside the little bed of a darling child when he or she is sick. You could do that night after night and the wolf could still drag your little lamb off. No, the real night is life lived without light. The circle of people who live in the light of God’s grace and on whom his face shines lives in the daylight. By contrast, night is the darkness of sin, the bleakness of a world without redemption. That’s the world your children have to live in. That’s where they stand naked, confronting a double danger. That’s where this world’s darkness poses a twofold threat to their tender souls. The day-watch over your children is the light shining around you in your home, where they are safe. But the night-watch over your children is that heavy-hearted responsibility you have when dangers encroach and bleakness descends when suddenly they are out of your house.