Though terrified at first by what they saw,
The shepherds were amazed by what they heard –
The angel’s message filled their hearts with awe –
To witness for themselves their feet were spurred.
To see they went to Bethlehem with haste
And that which heaven heralded they found:
The newborn savior in a manger placed,
The child whom they knew was to be crowned.
They saw the Glory of the LORD revealed,
And, when the Light of God their eyes beheld
As trumpeted by angels in the field,
To make it known at once were they compelled.
Thus, Light and Glory banish fear
And loosen tongues with joy when Christ is near.
Last week’s sonnet from Christmas Eve looked at the shepherds’ reaction to the sudden, glorious appearance of God’s messenger and the host of heaven. The announcing of Jesus’ birth was of such magnificence and holiness that at first they were struck with fear, as anyone would be when suddenly confronted by the brilliant and holy light of heaven. They are told not to fear, but instead are told such good news that drives out all fear. They are encouraged to see the source of the good news and they promptly go to see it for themselves, and, seeing it to be true, their feet are spurred to spread the good news to everyone they can.
Though Christmas is now several days behind, the great hope that we celebrated is by no means behind us — it is before us. As shepherds responded to witnessing the truth of the angels’ message by hurrying to spread the hope, so we too must spring forward with eager feet to bring to all the good news of Christ’s birth and all that He is and has done. As Paul writes in Ephesians 6:14, we must shod our feet “with the readiness that comes from the Gospel of peace” (NIV).
And this we may do confidently and without fear. Remember, the shepherds were not people of great repute or wealth; they were not well respected by most in society, being instead of the lower class, outcasts in the culture. They had good reason to suppose that their message would be scoffed at simply because of their status in life. Yet they went. They also were not any better as people than anyone else, and they knew they were not perfectly righteous but sinners. Their fear at the appearance of the angels was in part due to this recognition of their fallenness! Yet they went. They went because they realized that the news was too good to keep to themselves, no matter how their message would be received. Indeed, the news they brought is what conquered their fears.
And it should conquer our fears also. We should not fear our position with other people or how well we are respected — consider the birth of Christ! As Paul articulates in Philippians 2:6-7, Jesus, “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,[b] 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[c] being born in the likeness of men” (ESV). The Son of God was of the highest estate, worthy of the highest respect and worship possible, yet humbled Himself by becoming human. This act alone, which we celebrate at Christmas, exposed Him to humiliation and mockery, which He experienced throughout His life even to His death at the cross. Indeed, His incarnation and His suffering make our lowliness and suffering for Him the highest glory in His kingdom.
We also need not fear our fallenness, our imperfection and sinfulness, for this also has Christ redeemed. Jesus is the Light who drives out the darkness in our hearts — before God, we are cleansed and forgiven of our sins! Though we are by no means perfect and still war with sin in our hearts, we can stand with confidence before the Lord our Judge, knowing that we are justified by Christ’s actions and thus have nothing to fear. If we can approach the God of heaven, assured of standing before Him, how much more can we go out into the world and proclaim the hope in Christ that enables us to approach God in love?
Therefore, as God presents to us a brand new year, remember the light and glory that banish fear and boldly share the news that hope is here.
Picture: By Creator:Albrecht Bräuer (Own work (BurgererSF)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsShare: