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 (NIV)

     Dear Lord Jesus, like bookends of grace, the heart-settling command, “Do not be afraid”, accompanies your birth and resurrection (Luke 2:10; Matt. 28:5). Ever since our first parents sinned, fear and hiding have, and been part and parcel of life, and I’ve helped keep the family tradition alive. At times, fear has more power over my life than your love; and though you’ve already clothed me in your righteousness, I still reach into my closet for fig leaves to cover my brokenness and shame.

     But today, I join shepherds in hurrying off to come to you, Jesus, for you alone bring the good news of great joy for which our hearts longs every day. You alone can charm our fears and set us free. My fears aren’t all that noble. I’m not really afraid of angelic hosts and I’m not afraid to die. I’m not even afraid of facing the final judgment, for your cross was our Judgment Day.

     So what do I fear? I’ll start with “the fear of man.” There are some people whose praise and disdain have more in-the-moment power over my heart than the gospel. Then there’s fear of the aging process—my body breaking down, my memory losing its edge, and the possibility of not mattering anymore. Jesus, even as I acknowledge these fears, I praise you for your non-condemning gaze. There is no greater joy than being totally known and unreservedly loved by you.

     Jesus, I have other fears which also need “gospel-charming.” I bring these to you today with joy; for though you were once a baby wrapped in cloths lying in a manger, now you’re a Savior outside an empty tomb. Thank you, thank you, thank you. So very Amen I pray, in your loving and liberating name.