If we read through all the birth stories in Matthew and Luke, one theme emerges: Angels are everywhere! Both before and after the birth of Jesus. In every instance where angels appear, they have a unified message: DO NOT BE AFRAID!
“DO NOT BE AFRAID,” the angel said to Zechariah. “Your prayer has been heard. Elizabeth’s time of barrenness is over. She will bear you a son and you will name him John. You will have joy and gladness, and he will be great in the sight of God.”
“DO NOT BE AFRAID,” the angel said to Mary. “You have found favor with God. You will conceive and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High.”
“DO NOT BE AFRAID to take Mary as your wife,” the angel said to Joseph. “She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
“DO NOT BE AFRAID,” the angel said to the shepherds. “For see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
DO NOT BE AFRAID. Perhaps, if we listen closely, we can hear these words spoken to us this Christmas Eve: DO NOT BE AFRAID.
I don’t know how you’re feeling tonight, but I have the sneaking suspicion that many of us need to hear these words of comfort and hope: DO NOT BE AFRAID.
There are many things in our world that cause us to be fearful. The news regarding climate change seems to be getting worse every time a new report is issued. Far too often, we read about yet another mass shooting in America. Our nation is deeply polarized and divided. Politicians in Washington DC and Raleigh seem incapable of working together. Hate speech and demonization of those who are different from us is a plague on our society.
Then there are the personal and family crises that cause us to be anxious and afraid. Some of us are mourning the death of loved ones. This is felt even more deeply at Christmas. Others are wrestling with depression, cancer, and other illnesses. Some of us are having a hard time paying the bills. Others have family dynamics that drive them crazy.
I don’t need to list everything that causes us to be afraid, because I think you get the point. We know our fears by name. There are many things in this word that cause us to be nervous, worried and hopeless.
But in the midst of this raging sea of negative emotion, we hear the angel’s greeting: “DO NOT BE AFRAID. For see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ, the Lord.”
The birth of Jesus changes everything! The carol O Little Town of Bethlehem states it best, “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” The hopes we have for a better tomorrow; the fears that it might actually get worse. The hopes that our families will be able to live in safety and prosperity; the fears that we may not be able to make this happen.
In this moment, with twinkling lights and candles all aglow; in this moment with cheerful voices singing hymns of praise; WE WILL NOT BE AFRAID because we celebrate the birth of Jesus. He is the light who shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome him. Jesus is the light who cannot be extinguished. All the fearful things that happen in our world might give it a good try, but they cannot snuff out the light! Tonight, hope is born. Salvation has come to us from the most unlikely of places: A helpless baby born in humble circumstances in the hill country of Bethlehem.
This baby would grow up to heal the sick, find the lost, speak parables of grace, welcome the outcast, and conquer death forever. He would teach us to not only love God, our neighbors and our selves; but to extend that love to include our enemies as well as those who persecute us.
Make no mistake about it, the Christ Child came to change the world, and change it he did! And so on this holiest of nights, I pray that a seed of hope will be planted in our hearts. I pray this seed will grow into a glorious, beaming light that refuses to let the darkness win.
Jesus told us that we are the light of the world. We are created to shine. We need to remember that Jesus is not the only one who is called to shine light into the darkness. We are called to shine as well! “No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket,” Jesus said, “But on the lamp stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”
My dear friends, in the midst of whatever darkness we face, as individuals and families, as a nation, and as a world, we will not be afraid. Emmanuel is with us! Christ’s light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it. So let’s summon our courage to live as shining lights in our world. Let us tirelessly and fearlessly do the work Christ has commanded us to do: Love, love, love and then love some more. Serve those in need. Fight for those who are oppressed and abused. And the peace of Christ will be with us, not only on this night, but always. AMEN.
Copyright ©2019 David Eck