Summary: A simple Christmas Eve message
December 22, 2013 Luke 2:9-12
9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
Fear Not! Behold! A Savior - The Savior
I. Fear is a rare thing
When Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge God chased them from the Garden and placed an angel at the entryway with a flaming sword to keep them away from the Tree of LIfe; one mere look at the angel would be enough to scare them away. Tonight, instead of placing an angel to keep us from Paradise, God puts an angel in the sky to point the shepherds and us to Paradise.
It was probably very quiet and calm that night. The shepherds were used to the darkness. They probably didn’t spook too easily. They lived in it every night. They made a living in the darkness, you could say. But it was this backdrop of darkness that would have terrified them all the more. Remember that angels are chubby little babies. They are powerful warriors; God’s warriors who fight His battles. The bright and powerful glory of the Lord also shone all around them. The shepherds weren’t just afraid. They were sore afraid. They were so afraid it hurt. I don’t know if you’ve ever been that afraid. I can recall a few times in my life being so afraid I was afraid to move at all; hence the term being “scared stiff.”
The whole backdrop of this story is good for us to think about today. We live in a world of people that have become quite accustomed to living in the darkness. In some ways we’ve built a rather comfortable house down here under the curse. We have hot tubs and heaters; hot water and adjustable beds. We have automatic weapons and 911 to use in times of emergency. We also have a wide variety of foods and a thousand spices to cook it. We’ve come to really enjoy the darkness.
Spiritually, we’ve been coddled into thinking there is no sin. The only real sin we can commit in our society is to tell someone they are a sinner. Even those who still have some concept of God; even with some remnant of Christianity; they’ve been duped into thinking that a loving God would never really get angry about anything. Holiness is meant to be a fluffy pillow to sleep on; that is all. The last thing anyone wants is for something to come barging into their world and disrupt their pleasure.
I think about the reaction of the men on Jonah’s boat. A storm had come up and they were terrified of throwing Jonah overboard. They didn’t want God to judge them and condemn them. I think too about how Nebuchadnezzar had ignored God’s warnings and lived as if he were god. God made him crazy, and it scared and humiliated Nebuchadnezzar to realize how weak he really was. He then had a fear of God that he never had before. He said,
His dominion is an eternal dominion;
his kingdom endures from generation to generation.
35 All the peoples of the earth
are regarded as nothing.
He does as he pleases
with the powers of heaven
and the peoples of the earth.
No one can hold back his hand
or say to him: “What have you done?” (Daniel 4)
When Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce Joseph, it was his fear of God that kept him from even getting close to the temptation. How many of us have any remnant of fear over anything that we think, say or do?
There are flashes given; in heart attacks, near death accidents; in sermons which speak of God’s hatred of sin; but unfortunately many don’t fear our God who wants them to come to repentance. They have no clue who the true God is. They are living in the darkness and they’ve become comfortable here. They just assume that God will have to accept them as they are because they don’t really think they’re that bad. If only they saw how just and holy God really is! If only they knew how demanding He is! If only there were more fear!
The shepherds weren’t exactly comfortable in the darkness. The were looked down on by the Pharisees and the Teachers of the Law because their shepherding didn’t allow them to follow all of the rules and regulations of the day. They also didn’t have nice beds to sleep in and they weren’t making a lucrative salary. Some speculate that the sheep they were raising were used for slaughter at the temple. We can’t help but think that these shepherds were poor Jews who were waiting and hoping for the Messiah to come. Otherwise, all of these words from the angel would have appeared to be gibberish.