8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
14 ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!’
Ever have someone tell you not to be afraid? And you think, “That’s easy for you to say!”
Fear is a strong emotion; not something you can turn off just because someone said, “Do not fear.” Sometimes fear can paralyze us; we become stuck, unable to move forward or backward. I experienced this once while climbing without a safety rope. I was frozen in place; I couldn’t see a way forward, and I literally couldn’t see a place to put a foot so I could go back.
Shepherds were with their flocks at night; probably grateful for the time to rest and be quiet, when suddenly they were surrounded by the shining glory of the Lord, and the visage of an angel. They were terrified; I imagine they were frozen in fear. Then the angel spoke: “Do not be afraid, I have good news!”
I imagine that the good news the shepherds heard began to melt their fear as they wondered about this strange news about the birth of a child.
Fear brings a certain intensity; fear gets our attention, but how can we channel it so we can move forward? Where are the angels who say, “fear not, I have good news?”
Frozen on the rock, I began to tell myself to settle…just settle down…settle. Where did that come from? Perhaps we are not alone. Could it be that we are never alone. The God who came to us as one of us in the man, Jesus, made us a promise: “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” The risen Christ abides in us; we are not alone. We can call this presence by many names; our guardian angel, the Spirit, God, the Force, the Friend, Good News, but still the message is: we are not alone.
Frozen in fear on that rock I was not alone. I did settle down, I found the next hand-hold, I was able to move forward. Thanks be to God who abides in the darkest and most fearful places of our lives, and brings us Good News. Amen.
- Gil Healy