The angels’ proclamation to the shepherds packs a powerful punch.
“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.” Luke 2:10
Their good news communicated the fulfillment of a long anticipated promise.
But. somewhere in the midst of hope lies fear. What if that which we expect doesn’t unfold according to our expectations?
The narratives surrounding the account of Christ’s birth reveal the common human struggle with hope and fear.
These Jewish “chosen ones” longed for the promised Messiah. The hope had been passed down to them just as it had been through previous generations. The prophecies began to flesh out the vision. But did they understand how chosen they were? And there was a cost.
Hope became infused with fear.
Shepherds: ordinary folk from Bethlehem. As men, they were well steeped in knowledge of Jewish theology. The prophecies created a rough draft as to how the Messiah would be made manifest.
Micah 5:2-3[a] But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah,
who are one of the little clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to rule in Israel,
whose origin is from of old,
Hope grew in their hearts.
And then the angels visit. They are chosen to do a hard thing. The earthly implications are staggering. Who will believe them? How will they manage their sheep if they leave? Do they believe Jesus is enough to meet their hopes and fears?
Mary: Poor Jewish teen. Yet, from the line of David. She is aware of Isaiah’s words “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14)
Hope grows in her heart.
And then the angel visits. She is chosen to do a hard thing. The earthly implications are life threatening. She could be stoned for appearing to break her engagement vows.
Does she believe Jesus is enough to meet her hopes and fears?
Joseph: A carpenter’s son-not a significant identity in terms of social and economic status. Yet, from the line of David. He, too was schooled in the hope of a Messiah. One who would transform the status quo. Perhaps he clung to these words spoken through Isaiah:
“For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.” (Isaiah 9:6-7)
Hope grew in his heart.
And then the angel visits. He is chosen to do a hard thing. His reputation is at stake as well as his love for his fiancee. In addition, he and Mary could both be killed for their alleged violation of Jewish law. Does he believe Jesus will be enough to meet his hopes and fears?
Trusting God with what we can’t grasp is hard. Story after story throughout scripture bear witness to it. It’s a human problem.
Fear is mentioned in the Bible over 500 times!
The angels recognize our humanity which is why their first words are:“Do not be afraid!”
The exhortation itself was nothing new. God’s word to them and us spoken through Isaiah is this: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. “ Isaiah 41:10
But the angels’ announcement to the shepherds and to the world was different. Because this time God wasn’t just telling us no not be afraid. He was coming to earth to transform their fears.
Upon the official announcement of Jesus’ birth, something happens that the shepherds would have recognized but we may not.
A host of angels appears here. This is significant. The Greek work for “host” is a military term. These are not cute little angels playing harps. An angel army descended to earth to signify that Satan no longer rules it. They are operating at the command of the infant Jesus.
Heaven intersected Earth.
Jesus is enough.
Enough to meet our hopes and fears: for
health, power, relationship, provision, purpose….
“The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight” (From the hymn “O little Town of Bethlehem”)
Our fears are transformed into hope when we surrender them to Jesus.
Do you believe Jesus is enough to meet your hopes and fears? What can you leave in the manger?
*this post originated as a message given by me on Christmas Eve 2017 at Hope Covenant Church. You can listen to it here: