Have you ever been in a situation where you were too terrified to speak? Shocked into frozen immobility?
Imagine for a moment the night of Jesus’ birth from the shepherd’s point of view. Suddenly their peaceful, starry night sky lit up with the glory of the Lord! And if that wasn’t enough, then an angel of the Lord dropped in with a heavenly message.
Can you even imagine? No wonder the angel’s first words were, “Do not be afraid.”
That shekinah glory of the Lord that Luke records here refers to the splendor and brilliance that radiates from God’s very presence. Scripture tell us that the shekinah glory manifested in the pillars of cloud and fire that led the Israelites out of Egypt. It shone from the burning bush for Moses. It appeared in the brightness of the cloud at Jesus’s Transfiguration.
The glory of the Lord was quite an attention-grabbing, heart-stopping manifestation, indeed. It was a sign of both God’s nearness and His remoteness.
And the Levitical shepherds of Bethlehem were completely surrounded by it. After 400 years of God’s silence where His glory never visibly shone over His people, God made His mighty presence unmistakably known.
Though the shepherds were likely terrified, the angel’s announcement did not foreshadow gloom and destruction. He trumped the Good News that the Savior promised by God had finally arrived!
And the angel’s Good News was not limited to the shepherds, but intended for all people. Not just those who are good for goodness sake. It was the Good News of the Gospel that Jesus Christ had arrived into this world to save all who believe from eternal separation from Him.
God’s plan of salvation promised in the Garden of Eden had finally been put in motion that night. That one, extraordinary, life-giving night. And God tasked those shepherds to get the word out.
It was an announcement of great joy that we are privileged today to share with others — especially during this beautiful Advent season. It is God’s message of love, reflected in the innocent eyes of a Baby.
The shepherds didn’t realize that they would be hearing the heavenly announcement that night which would change the course of eternity. That it was a night like any other in all of history before or since.
Those stunned shepherds were privileged to be part of one extraordinary night that changed the history of the world and become bearers of a story full of wonder.
So, like the shepherds, the angel reminds us, “Do not be afraid.”
Don’t be afraid to receive the Good News.
Don’t be afraid to believe that it is for you.
Don’t be afraid to celebrate with great joy that your eternal address has changed from lost to found, because of the sheer grace and vast love of God almighty.
Joy to the world, the Lord has come!
Let earth receive her king.
Let every heart prepare Him room,
Let heaven and nature sing!