Sometime during this Christmas season you’ll probably hear the story of the shepherds and the angels recorded in Luke 2. The story begins like this:
“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)
“Do not be afraid.” Perhaps that was easier said that done. The shepherds were minding their own business. With weary eyes they kept watch over the flocks. Most nights it was sheer boredom. Occasionally the boredom was broken by the adrenalin rush of chasing away a wolf or a sheep thief, but most of the time it was just boring. This night was different … way different.
The glory of the Lord would have shined brilliantly in the dark night. The appearance of a supernatural light itself would be enough to make their hearts race, but in that light was a presence, an angel. Now, when we picture angels we are apt to imagine them as cute little cherubs with tiny wings and pudgy cheeks. That is probably a far cry from what these shepherds saw. Whether the angel was man-like in appearance or something more extreme, the fact that he glowed with the glory of God would have caused even the bravest shepherd to cower in fear, which is precisely what Luke tells us they did. They were terrified!
It is this terrifying supernatural creature who speaks the words, “Do not be afraid.” They likely thought the world was coming to an end or at the very least they themselves were toast. The last thing they probably expected were words of comfort, but that is precisely what they received. “Do not be afraid.”
The angel’s purpose was not to usher in the final judgment but to announce the fulfillment of God’s promise to send the Messiah. The angel’s appearance was not to bring bad news but good news, not to cause fear but to proclaim joy. And the joyful news being announced to the shepherds was not only for them; it was for the world!
This season we join with the angels in declaring a message of joy that neuters the fears of humankind. The Bible tells us that “perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18). It was love that led God to send His Son to us. That love is intended to drive fear from us and replace that fear with joy. If you will receive the Messiah Jesus as Savior and Lord, you, too, can know an abiding peace and an unending love that pushes fear out of your heart and replaces it with unquenchable joy!