Summary: A sermon for Christmas Eve.
“Do Not Be Afraid”
By: Kenneth Sauer,
Pastor of Parkview United Methodist Church, Newport News, VA
Close to ten years ago, one of my best friends confided in me by saying: “You know Ken, when I was a child I use to be afraid to go to sleep because I would have terrible nightmares.
Now the nightmares begin when I wake up.”
Sadly, there are many of us who can relate very well to what my friend had to say.
Fear is very much a part of many lives.
Maybe we’re afraid of losing our job, or our health, or our finances.
Maybe we’re afraid of not being accepted by others.
Or maybe we’re afraid of God!
Maybe we feel that no matter what we do—it’s not good enough for God.
Maybe we have been taught to think that God is out to get us for some reason.
This idea can lead to many fears and insecurities.
And these fears and insecurities can cripple our ability to love and act wisely.
Because when we live in constant fear of divine rejection, we focus all our attention on securing our own survival….
…leads us further away from the love of God.
You know, fear and love don’t go together very well.
Fear indicates our distrust of the one who claims to love us.
A child trembles when a parent threatens: “If you don’t behave, I’ll send you away!”
A wife is terrorized when a husband warns, “If you leave me, I’ll kill you!”
And human beings cower when we think that God is mean, angry, vengeful and out to get us!
So what does this have to do with Christmas?
Everything! I say.
“And there were shepherds out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. And 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 of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.’”
If we are afraid of God, then we most likely feel that we are unworthy, worthless sinners who have no chance to escape a fiery eternal damnation.
And yet, who were these shepherds?
Were they perfect?
Were they sinless?
Did they have all their ducks in a row?
Shepherds were really looked down upon in Jesus’ day.
Their reputations were lowly at best, and religious people snubbed their noses at them and rejected them.
Shepherds were despised and considered unclean.
And they were afraid of God.
They were terrified when the glory of the Lord shown around them…
…because they thought God was out to get them and judge them.
What a beautiful message from our God.
The birth of Christ is to be good news of great joy for all the people…not just the chosen few…
And that, my friends, includes you and me and the person sitting next to you…even the person who is not in church this evening!
How often do we smile at God?
Or do we only approach God with our eyes averted, our heads bowed, and our hands clasped and shaking?
Do we see God as our adversary or our friend?
The birth of Christ affirms that God is indeed our Friend!
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and Only Son…For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
Christianity is not about earning something or escaping something.
It is about accepting and discerning our proper place and role in creation—that God did not create us to be cowering supplicants or greedy schemers.
Christianity is about seeing ourselves as God sees us—as the crown of creation, children created in His image, precious in His sight, capable of loving as we have been loved, and destined to dwell with God forever.
When God looks upon us, God smiles.
Coming to know God through Christ is learning to smile back.
The Psalmist asks in Psalm 8: “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you care for him?”
Then he answers his own question: “You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.”
When we come to understand that God is smiling at us…when we see ourselves as God sees us…as God sees all people…our transformation…our salvation begins!
Discovering the salvation that God has lavished upon us by coming into our world as a baby in a manger knowing He would grow to be a man…a very misunderstood man—even to this day…simply shows us how much He loves us.