Christmas Eve, 2020
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. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!
This is a part of the story of Christmas. It is the moment when the angels appeared to the shepherds on the hillside and revealed to them that Christ had been born—the promised Child that would come to bring light to our darkness and save us from the gloom.
I think this story speaks to us in very meaningful ways.
One of the things we may notice right away is the theme of “fear.” “Don’t be afraid!” Seriously? “Oh, it is a host of angels, who hasn’t seen that before, right?”
Those shepherds were afraid, maybe just for a moment, but I am sure they were terrified.
This may speak to us in different ways. I am talking about the gripped of fear. I know all of us have different kinds of fears, worries. And one thing I have learned is that fear has a way of tying our stomachs up in knots, paralyzing our thinking, inducing panic, and even making us sick.
Can you relate to that? I am sure you do.
To many, this Christmas of 2020 may feel a whole lot like those few seconds when the shepherds saw the angels for the first time, “frightening.”
As we know, the entire world is still caught in the grip of an economic turmoil that began early in the year. People are still losing jobs, and the worry of getting sick with Covid-19 is pervasive.
The truth is, we worry. We fear because we care and love. And at the core of our beings, most of us don’t want to see anyone suffering, so even if we are fine ourselves, we may get overwhelmed by what we see happening to other people.
Perhaps this Christmas can help us understand what the first Christmas experience was like.
In many ways, that first Christmas felt the same way it may feel today to many of us. The world was in desperate times, too. A census was being conducted in order to raise already high taxes. Vicious, paranoid Herod the Great was the king of the Jews. It was winter on Bethlehem’s hillsides—and cold. Inside a cave in the town sit a poverty-stricken carpenter and his young wife—far from home, chilled to the bone. On top of that, she was in labor and had her Child born in a stable, of all places. “Why is it like this?” she may have asked, while her husband worried about their wellbeing, feeling powerless to provide to them as the good husband he was.
Many may relate to this story today.
Then, at the same time, on the desolate hillsides outside of town, out in the cold the shepherds are huddling, too, and all of a sudden the sky lights up and an angel proclaims:
“Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born a Savior! You will find him wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”
After receiving this news, their fear turned into effusive, bursting enthusiasm, and they ran down the hillsides into the town and hurry from stable to stable until they found the Child in the manger—just as they were told. And they found him, tucked in that manger, kept warmed wrapped in clothes against the cold, they saw him, the Savior himself, held tight against the chest of his mother.
Amazing. Such beauty against such a gloomed backdrop.
But what is a Savior? That is a great question. A Savior comes to rescue people in danger, preserve those who are threatened by harm, protect his people from the troubles that surround them, and by doing all of that, casting out all fear.
That’s what saviors do! That’s what Jesus came to do for us. So, it is good news of great joy not just for the shepherds; it is good news of great joy for all people—for you and me.
What does this mean to us? Just like with Mary and Joseph, and the shepherds, God refuses to forget the ones forgotten by the world, God refuses to abandon the ones forsaken by the world; God makes room for you and me and makes us his guests. All this means that we are found and kept safe and no longer need to be wandering around in fear.
Tonight, and the days ahead, as you gather with your people and live your life the best you can, remember this: Don’t be afraid; our Savior has come and is with us.
I invite you to consider the story of Christmas, make it your own, become a part of it, and see yourself in what God is doing and participate in it. Be a blessing.
Merry Christmas. Feliz Navidad.