Imagine the scene. You are sleepily guarding sheep outside of Bethlehem. Night watches have been set to warn of intruders or of animals seeking a tasty meal. It’s your job to keep the sheep safe.
Suddenly you are startled by a bright light, and there stands an angel.
Admit it . Wouldn’t you be afraid? Really, is this friend or foe? Are you dreaming, or is this real? But other shepherds were seeing the same thing. An angel? Why would an angel appear to shepherds, of all people? No wonder the Bible says they were terrified.
So what were the angel’s first words? “Don’t be afraid” (Luke 2:8-12, The Message).
That is so typical of the gospel. Even before the good news was given, there is the exhortation: “Don’t be afraid.” Jesus himself often said it.
Our human condition is such that we often are afraid, but God sends His perfect love —the kind of love that goes far beyond our conditions — casts out our fear; for there is no fear in love (1 John 4:18).
That’s what the shepherds found out. After the exhortation not to be afraid, the angel said: “I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master” (Luke 2:8-12, The Message). Then he was joined by a chorus of angels praising God for this “great event.”
When the angels disappeared and the shepherds were left in darkness, they couldn’t get rid of the glow in their souls. So they said: “Let’s go over to Bethlehem as fast we as can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us” (Luke 2:15, The Message).
“They left running . . . They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child. All who heard the sheepherders were impressed . . . The Sheepherders returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God everything that they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly as they’d been told” (Luke 2:15-20, The Message). They came; they saw. And for them, seeing was believing.
Not all of God’s plans are so readily verified. But if God says it will come to pass, you can stake everything on it.
The message of the angels was of peace on earth. Poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, in in his classic, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” wondered that “hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth goodwill to men.” There is fear. He concluded however:
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
God is not dead: nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, goodwill to men.
God lives forever. His mercy endures forever. You don’t have to be afraid whatever happens in this world. It will be for you exactly what He has said. A Savior is born. Run to Him now. “Let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything” you have heard and seen. And then tell everyone. This is good news!
This article originally appeared in the Pentecostal Evangel.