8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid.”
We forget that God is right there, waiting for us to turn to him, no matter how dire our situation.
We forget the reassuring words of his messengers: “Fear not.”
God always seeks to draw close to us — even in the depths of hell.
…it comes down to this: the only way to truly overcome our fear of death
is to live life in such a way that its meaning cannot be taken away by death.
It means fighting the impulse to live for ourselves, instead of for others.
It means choosing generosity over greed.
It also means living humbly, rather than seeking influence and power.
Finally, it means being ready to die again and again
— to ourselves, and to every self-serving opinion or agenda.
~Johann Christoph Arnold from Watch for the Light
“How often we look upon God as our last and feeblest resource!
We go to Him because we have nowhere else to go.
And then we learn that the storms of life have driven us,
not upon the rocks, but into the desired haven.”
Here is your life.
You might never have been, but you are,
because the party wouldn’t have been complete without you.
Here is the world.
Beautiful and terrible things will happen.
Don’t be afraid.
I am with you.
~Frederick Buechner in Wishful Thinking and later in Beyond Words
Fear often becomes the thing we fear the most. And it need not be. Being afraid in the face of the unexpected happened years and years ago to people who were society’s cast-offs, relegated to tending flocks as they had no other skill of value. They were the forgotten and the least of men. Yet what they saw and heard that Christmas night put them, of all people, first in line to see God in flesh, allowing them access no one else had.
Within the routine familiarity of their fields and flocks came this most unexpected experience, terrifying in its sheer “other worldliness”, and blinding in its grandeur. They were flattened with fear and dread, “sore” afraid, hurting all over in their terror.
And so the reassurance came: “Be not afraid”. It is reiterated over and over: “Fear not!”
The shepherds picked themselves up, dusted themselves off and obediently went on their way to the safety and familiar security of a barn, to see with their own eyes what they could not imagine: a baby born in so primitive a place, yet celebrated from the heavens. The least becomes first, and the first becomes the least.
Sometimes, in these dark times, our terror is for good reason, and we feel driven upon the rocks of life. But we need to understand where we truly land in those terrifying moments. It is the safe haven of God’s arms, as He gazes up at us from a manger bed, walks with us through the valley of our fear, and gathers us in to safe haven when we were sure there was nowhere else to go.
We stood on the hills, Lady,
Our day’s work done,
Watching the frosted meadows
That winter had won.
The evening was calm, Lady,
The air so still,
Silence more lovely than music
Folded the hill.
There was a star, Lady,
Shone in the night,
Larger than Venus it was
And bright, so bright.
Oh, a voice from the sky, Lady,
It seemed to us then
Telling of God being born
In the world of men.
And so we have come, Lady,
Our day’s work done,
Our love, our hopes, ourselves,
We give to your son.
1. Methinks I see an heav’nly host
Of angels on the wing
Methinks I hear their cheerful notes
So merrily they sing:
Let all your fears be banish’d hence,
Glad tidings I proclaim,
For there’s a Saviour born today,
And Jesus is his name.
2. Lay down your crooks and quit your flocks,
To Bethlehem repair;
And let your wand’ring steps be squar’d
By yonder shining star.
Seek not in courts or palaces,
Nor royal curtains draw;
But search the stable, see your God
Extended on the straw.
3. Then learn from hence, ye rural Swains,
The Meekness of your God,
Who left the boundless Realms of Joy
To Ransom you with blood.
The Master of the Inn refus’d
A more commodious Place;
Ungenerous Soul of Savage Mould,
And destitute of Grace.
4. Exult ye oxen, low for joy,
Ye tenants of the stall,
Pay your obeisance, on your knees
The royal guest you entertain
Is not of common birth,
But second to the great I Am;
The God of heav’n and earth.
5. Then suddenly a heav’nly host
Around the shepherds throng,
Exulting in the threefold God
And thus address their song.
To God the Father, Christ the Son,
And Holy Ghost ador’d;
The First and Last, the Last and First,
Eternal praise afford.