Biblical Reference: Luke 2:1-20
The Christmas Story is a story with so many layers and so many different things we can observe. There is the most obvious, the birth of Jesus and how God became flesh and dwelt among us. There is the story of a young girl becoming pregnant by the Holy Spirit (I have always wanted to listen to the conversation between she and Joseph, because I am pretty sure he would have responded like me…”Mary, you know how babies are made right? If I am not the father who is!?” All of which would have been said in a much higher volume than normal conversation). There is the story of Joseph and his graciousness as well as his quiet strength. But, there is a story that seems to always fascinate me. It is the story of the shepherds.
I love the story of the shepherds because they are doing their everyday, ordinary work and God does something extraordinary among them. I cannot prove it, but I think God may work more in our work and in our ordinary everyday stuff than He does in the middle of a church service or “spiritual” event (although I believe he works in those places as well!). Most people know shepherds were kind of outcast in Jesus’ day, but that isn’t even the part I have been thinking about this year.
I have spent more time this Christmas season thinking about just a few of the words the angel gives to the shepherds. The words are “Do not be afraid.” Some other translations may say, “Do not Fear.” This idea of not being afraid is all throughout the Bible. It seems to be one of the most important commands of God. Yet, we seem to struggle to hear it and put it into practice.
One of the apostles later writes, “perfect love drives out fear,” Jesus himself says do not fear. One of the things we sometimes miss in this story is that the birth of Jesus is the embodiment of love, it is the antithesis of fear. The challenge that I believe God has been giving me and you is to not live in any kind of fear!
I don’t mean that we should stand in front of a moving car and see what happens, but I do mean we are called to stop being afraid! We are called to stop being afraid of who is elected president…Jesus is still Lord. We are called to stop being afraid of who moves in next door…Jesus is still Lord. We are called to stop being afraid that everything will corrupt our children…Jesus is still Lord. We are called to stop being afraid of what might be or what might happen…Jesus is still Lord!
If we will live every day recognizes that the Love of God, perfect love, drives out fear then we can begin to see the world as God sees the world, with hope! Maybe, just maybe, if we are no longer living and acting out of fear God will use us to do the extraordinary, in our everyday ordinary lives. Maybe, just maybe, if we live into the story of “God with us” (Immanuel) we will be a part of driving out fear and rather than angels telling shepherds to not fear it will be those of us who are choosing love over fear, who are choosing Jesus over everything else.