Luke 2: 8-15 (KJV)
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 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. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
In a dark field, in what was a dark world, the shepherds were keeping watch over their flock at night. I imagine that the shepherds didn’t encounter too many unexpected surprises in their line of work. They had to deal with the occasional thieves or predators, but for the most part the job didn’t offer much excitement. And suddenly, the angel of the Lord appeared to these shepherds. The light of God’s kingdom came bursting through the darkness. The light was coming to bring hope to those who were weary, tired, and afraid – to those who had lost hope.
The first reaction that we see from the shepherds is that of fear. They were terrified of this supernatural encounter that was appearing before their very eyes. Seeing this great company of angels along with the “glory of God” was an encounter that you might not live to talk about. So the shepherds certainly had reason to be afraid. But we know that God had a purpose in choosing these lowly men, whom society didn’t basically recognize, to witness the announcement of their long awaited redeemer. Fear was about to give way to hope.
Many of the people in that society were afraid. They were afraid as many people are today. King Herod certainly stirred fear among the people of the Holy Land. He was cruel and he made his wrath felt upon anyone who dared to oppose him in any way. He had given the authority to put to death many who opposed him including several members of his own family. The Romans also inspired fear as they constantly reminded the Jewish people of their presence and authority. Many wars were fought in the Holy Land and the economy was in bad shape. There were legitimate reasons for fear during that time in history. And there are many things that we fear in the society that we live in today.
We are fearful for our children’s safety at school or at the mall. Some of us live in fear of the many diseases that can attack our body. There are those who live in fear of someone or some thing, like the many wars that have broken out across the globe in recent years. Fear can by paralyzing, it can cause us to be afraid to stand up for ourselves or for others. But as believers, we serve a God who brings a word of hope to us in the midst of our fear and in the midst of the darkness that surrounds us.
And the first word of the angel to those shepherds in the field was “Fear not. Do not be afraid.” Those words spoken by the angel are important words for us today. The great and wonderful news that was announced to the shepherds is the same message that God wants us to hear today. It came to them, as the angel said, because a Savior was born in Bethlehem. Because of the presence of a Savior, they need not be afraid of anything. And today, we as followers of Christ, need not to be afraid of anything. We have the hope and the promise of eternal life because of our belief in Christ Jesus as our savior.