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And in the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields, and keeping watch over their flock by night.  And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.
When you gather around the Christmas tree tonight or tomorrow morning, will you enjoy an authentic Christmas? When I say the phrase authentic Christmas, what words come to your mind? Close your eyes and let your mind wander for a minute. Can you smell the turkey roasting? Can you see the lights reflect off the tree ornaments? Can you hear the sounds of a crackling fire from the fireplace? Can you feel the electricity in the air generated by excited children? Can you taste the distinct flavor of egg nog?
My reflections upon Christmases past and my hopes for Christmases future usually involve warm memories like the one’s you’ve just experienced. They flash through my mind in rapid succession from early childhood to today. They become touchstones for me that remind me that life is good, and in the spirit of the anticipation of Christmas Eve, that it might just get better.
As wonderful as these images are, they are not what I mean by “Authentic Christmas.” From the Biblical narrative, several words jump from the page, many of them are included in our Christmas Hymns. Words like peace, hope, joy, Emmanuel, silent night, stable, shepherds, wise men, gifts, angels, manager, fear. Fear? Yes, fear.
Even if we include the religious trappings of Christmas and avoid the commercialism trap, we are not experiencing an authentic Christmas unless we experience the Glory of God and recover a holy fear of God. When the Angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds and they were encompassed by the glory of the Lord, the scripture says “ they were terribly frightened.”
Have we lost a sense of fear of God? Have we become so familiar with God that we’ve lost the sense of awe we should have when His name is mentioned? Have we become so pragmatic and programmed that we’ve drifted away from the sense of reverence that used to accompany any worship service?
John Franklin, Prayer/Discipleship Specialist for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention recently said, “Some say become relevant, be contextual, nontraditional, change the way we do church. These things may be needed, but they are not enough. We must rediscover the ‘Fear of God.’”
Christmas is a wonderful opportunity to rediscover the “fear of God.” This holy fear is woven throughout the Christmas story. When the angel of the Lord appeared to Zacharias, the scripture says, “fear gripped him.” (Luke 1:12). And the angel told Mary to “fear not.” (Luke 1:30)
Why did they have this holy fear? Well on one level, most of us would be a tad frightened if an angel appeared to us, wouldn’t we? But on another level, this fear resulted from one thing: exposure to the glory of God. Verse 9 says, “and the glory of the Lord shone around them;”
Wherever God’s glory is, there is a holy fear.
God’s glory descended when Jesus healed the demoniac, resulting in a holy fear. “And they came to Jesus and observed the man who had been demon-possessed sitting down, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the "legion"; and they became frightened.” (Mark 5:15
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