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. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”
For all our Christmas visions of the angel chorus sweetly singing o’re the plain, the scripture is clear: The shepherds were terrified. The Cotton Patch Gospel puts it like this: “It nearly scared the life out of them.”
And here, as in a multitude of places throughout the Bible, God’s response to our human fear rings out clearly: “Do not be afraid.”
Do not be afraid … when terrorists want us to cower in fear and surrender our freedoms.
Do not be afraid … when fear and suspicion of our Muslim neighbors is openly advocated.
Do not be afraid … when we were raised to fear those who are different from us.
Do not be afraid … when we fear an increasingly armed and militarized society.
Do not be afraid … when political and economic profit can be had from stoking our fears.
These are surely challenging times to not be afraid! Then again, so were Bible times. And yet God’s word remains: Do not be afraid. Why does God want us to live without fear? Perhaps because fear paralyzes us, causing us to retreat inward instead of reaching out in love.
Do not be afraid – not because there is no danger, no human evil, no angel chorus interrupting the dark night. Do not be afraid because God is God. Because God’s love is stronger than evil. Because God’s peace will ultimately triumph in this world. Because Jesus has been born, the living embodiment of this God of peace and love. Do not be afraid because we have good news of a Savior who wills life and hope and peace and joy to “all the people.” And like the shepherds we are called to move beyond our fear to live and share that good news.
DO NOT BE AFRAID. Refuse to live your life in fear. Turn off the voices that tell you to be afraid. Instead, strive to live the life God wills for us: In peace, loving God and Neighbor.
Loving God, take away our fear … The fear that haunts us in the dark of night, the fear that others create for their own purposes, the fear that blinds us to the worth of your people who are different from us. Let the good news of Jesus’ birth so permeate our hearts and minds that we are protected from fear, free to live and love.
In His name we pray, Amen.