December 20th by Bill Stein
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then the 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.”
We hear these familiar words every Christmas. This familiar passage is followed by a multitude of angels filling the sky and singing “Glory to God in the highest!” To us over 2,000 years later it seems an awe-filled sight – angels filling the sky with light and song, proclaiming the One who was longed for has finally arrived.
The shepherds certainly did not feel the same way. In fact, the passage points out to us they were terrified. In the King James version, we hear they were “sore afraid.” The shepherds were among the lowest ranking people in that day. If the Savior had been born, wouldn’t the angels have made this announcement to a king or other high-ranking person? Why were they visiting these lowly shepherds in the middle of the night with this amazing news? God chose to come to us through the ordinary – a young woman, her husband to be, a stable with animals, and shepherds.
The first words the angel says are “Do not be afraid.” We hear these four words many times in scripture. At a time when there is much to fear in our world – climate change, political divisiveness, disease, terrorism – the angel’s message is also to us: do not be afraid. That doesn’t mean to be idle in places that require our intervention and prayers, but we should do our work loving God’s creation and people without fear or hesitation.
How is God present in the ordinary ways in our lives? How can we all live our lives true to God’s call and not be afraid? May this Advent and Christmas season inspire us, once again, to be open to the Good News, and to be vessels of hope, peace, joy, and love.