“And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths 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, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:8–14)
I find striking the fact that God chose to announce the birth of Jesus to a bunch of shepherds out in a field, while they were tending their flock at night. Why not, rather, someone more holy? Shepherds were often looked down on, even despised by the pious, religious people of their day. Shepherds had a great deal of trouble maintaining the ceremonial aspects of the Jewish law. They could not maintain all the meticulous hand washings and rules and regulations. They were the last group of people one would expect God provide such a visitation. So, it is no surprise that these lowly men were struck with fear at the appearance of an angel, who was accompanied by the glory of the Lord.
Fear is not only for shepherds, it is the natural response of men and women to the presence of a holy God. When we are struck with God’s glory, we cower because we know that our sin makes us unworthy to be in His presence. I see it in some of my friends when they are invited to church. They often reply that “the walls will fall down if I go to church.” They sense the weight of their own sin and it sends them running as far away as possible from the presence of God. Even Mary, the mother of Jesus was fearful when visited by the angel. But in the case of both the shepherds and Mary, the angel told them, “Fear not.” Why? Because the angel was bringing “good news of great joy that will be for all people.” It was not just good news for the shepherds and not just good news for Mary, but “good news of great joy that will be for all people.”
The sign and hope of that good news came in the form of a baby, wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger. He was and is the good news; the good news that we no longer need to fear being in the glorious presence of God. His coming that day was to strike down fear. It is through Him that the “gloomy clouds of night and death’s dark shadows are put to flight.” Yes, even our greatest fear, the fear of death has been put away in Jesus. When our faith is in Him, we have been accepted and need no longer run from but to God. Like the shepherds when they saw Jesus, we cannot help but rejoice! We are no longer condemned but forgiven and accepted by God with the very righteousness of our Savior.
God has removed any and all reasons to fear if you are trusting in Jesus. If God has put away even the fear of death, surely He does not want you to fear the lesser things in life that trouble you daily. His sovereign love has cast out all fear and provides for your constant care. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13) Rejoice!
O Come O Come Emmanuel
O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.