And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:8-12
Dear Lord Jesus, like bookends of glory, we’re confronted with the command “Do not be afraid” at both your birth and your resurrection (Luke 2:10; Matt. 28:5). Ever since our first parents sinned, feared, and hid, I’ve helped to keep the family tradition alive. At times fear has more power over my life than your love, and though I already know myself to be clothed in your righteousness, I still reach into my closet for fig leaves.
So today, early in Advent, I join shepherds in hurrying off to come to you; for you alone, Lord Jesus, bring the “good news of great joy” for which my heart longs, every day. You alone can charm my fears and set this prisoner more fully free.
Because the gospel is true, I can tell you what you already know to be true. My fears aren’t all that noble. I’m not really afraid of angelic hosts. I’m not really afraid to die. I’m not even afraid of facing the final judgment, for I humbly cling to your cross as my Judgment Day. You’ve already exhausted God’s judgment against all my sins—past, present, and future. Hallelujah!
So what fears haunt me? For what fears do I need to obey the command “Do not be afraid”? I’ll start with “the fear of man.” Jesus, there are some people whose praise, criticism, and opinion have more functional power over my heart than the gospel.
Then there’s the fear of obsolescence and irrelevancy—the fear of disappearing into a cloud of not mattering anymore. Jesus, even as I acknowledge this fear, I praise you for your non-condemning gaze. It’s not easy to confess such weakness. May the joy of being used by you never supersede the much greater joy of being known and loved by you.
Jesus, I have other fears which need gospel charming. I bring these to you today with joy; for you’re no longer a baby wrapped in cloths lying in a manger; you’re a Savior outside an empty tomb, and now, at the Father’s right hand—ever living to advocate and pray for me. Thank you, thank you, thank you. So very Amen I pray, in your loving and liberating name.