When the angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds on the hills outside Bethlehem on that first Christmas night, the Bible says that they were greatly afraid. Now that doesn’t surprise me. If you were just minding your own business, just doing your job, not bothering anybody, and an angel showed up, and God’s glory lit up your world, how do you think you would respond? What really gets my attention in this experience is not that the shepherds were afraid, or even that they were greatly afraid, but that the angel’s first words were “Don’t be afraid!”
Who are you kidding?
God sent Gabriel to the small town of Nazareth to a young girl who had been promised in marriage to Joseph, a local carpenter/stonemason. When Mary saw the angel, “she was troubled at his greeting, and she was thinking about what kind of greeting it was. Then the angel said to her, ‘Don’t be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.’”
Here again we see the angel coming unexpectedly and interrupting someone who is minding her own business, getting ready for the day when Joseph would come to take her to be his wife. She is troubled. She was completely disturbed and agitated with fear.
I believe that when this world is invaded by that world that is inhabited by the Star-breather, the only response that is possible from this creation is fear. There is nothing in this creation that can prepare us for that kind of encounter.
So how do we deal with this confrontation of the other-world with this-world inhabitants? John has the answer. It is found in I John 4. In verse 9, John says, “In this the love of God was demonstrated toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as the propitiation (the satisfactory sacrifice) for our sins.” Ultimately, Christmas is about the love of God; the love of God that is found in His Son. The Baby in the manger is not some New Age symbol of universal love. The Baby in the manger is the demonstration of the love of God for us that caused Him to send the eternal Son of God to pay the debt that was owed by us because of our disobedience.
How can the invading beings from the other world, when they confront the frail sinful beings in this world, begin their presentations with “Do not be afraid!”? Verse 18 of I John 4: “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment (or punishment). But the one who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us.”
“Don’t be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” God loves you and will perform His great act of love through you. There is no fear in love. “You will conceive in your womb and give birth to a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest One…and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” I am sending My Son into the world as the supreme act of love. Don’t be afraid!
“Don’t be afraid, shepherds, for I bring you good news of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Messiah, the Anointed One, Love in the flesh.” Perfect love casts out fear. Fear involves punishment. Love brings salvation. Fear involves torment; fear involves judgment.
“God loved the world in such a way that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
The shepherds on the hillside outside Bethlehem received the message with joy and hurried off to share it with others. May you and I do the same!