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)
Lord Jesus, like bookends of uber-grace, the heart-settling command, “Do not be afraid!”, was given at your birth, and at your resurrection (Luke 2:10; Matt. 28:5). Ever since our first parents sinned, fear and hiding have been part and parcel of life. I’ve helped keep the family tradition alive. At times, fear has more power over my life than your love, and though I know myself to be clothed in your righteousness, I still reach into my closet for fig leaves that wilt, costumes of disguise, and armor that doesn’t really protect.
I join the shepherds this morning in running to meet you, for you alone bring the good news of great joy for which our heart longs. You alone can charm our fears and set prisoners free. Because the gospel is true, we don’t have to pose or pretend; and that’s good news, because my fears aren’t all that noble. I’m not really afraid of angels showing up, and I’m no longer afraid to die. I’m not even afraid of facing the final judgment, for your cross was my Judgment Day.
For what fears do I need to obey the command “Do not be afraid”? I’ll start with “the fear of man.” At times, what people think of me has more power over my heart than the gospel. Then there’s the fear of redundancy—the fear not mattering anymore in my world. Some days I fear developing a memory loss disease, since that has been a part of my family’s story, more than once. Even as I acknowledge these fears, I praise you for your non-condemning gaze, full acceptance, and great kindness. It’s not easy to be vulnerable and confess weakness.
Jesus, these aren’t the only 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. Hallelujah, many times over. So very Amen I pray, in your loving and liberating name.