But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. - Luke 2:10
If I was to wake the kids up at 2:00am on Christmas morning with strobe lights and the fire alarm and then told them to not be afraid because I had good news of great joy (I had finally finished putting together the last toy,) I think the children and you, the reader, would all question why I was telling the children not to express a fear that my manner of rousing them seemed calculated to produce.
We see something of the same strange contradiction in the angels’ repeated imperatives throughout the nativity account. Whether appearing to teenage girls or unsuspecting shepherds the angels are always eager to pronounce the same counterintuitive command: “Don’t be afraid.”
On the face of it, it seems that if the angels didn’t want their audience to be alarmed they would have changed the manner of their appearance. They would have come in benign incognito.
But God was not interested in tamed angels and timid shepherds. It suits him, his glory, and his redemptive plans for his angels to be terrifying and his people to be fearless.
Resist the temptation to make the angels soft and fuzzy, to make the story all rounded edges and sweet sentiment. There are mysterious kings from the East, a murderous tyrant, a baby born to be brutally sacrificed, a foreshadowing feeding trough, divine beings with supernatural powers. Christmas, at its best, is kind of spooky. And the Christian, at his best, is fearless.
And fearless not because we are exceptionally brave, but because we understand that the ones who really deserve to be frightened by all of this are the forces of darkness. We see the angels and feel much the same way that American servicemen might feel when the loud rumble of American F-16s’s is felt through the soles of their boots.
That’s why no experience of Christmas would be perfect without some fearlessness in the mix. This Christmas, please the angels with a pumped fist and a confident response. You’ve been given good news that will cause great joy for all the people.
With the season of feasting upon us, one thing’s for sure: You can never have enough butter. Spice up your Christmas this season by making Compound butter. Bring butter to room temperature, and add herbs to your liking. Consider parsley, rosemary, thyme, sage, etc. Reform and freeze on wax paper, or in ice cube trays.
Written by: Joel Tate
Furnace Brook Wesleyan Church Blog