Years ago, as Director of Christian Education, in the days when that role for me involved kids, we did a lot of Christmas programs. On this particular Christmas the play was called Three Wise Men and A Baby. In one scene the shepherds (three boys from the Junior Department of the Sunday School) were to be sitting around their fire just minding their own business and talking their long, boring evening away as they watched their sheep. The angel who was to appear to them, was a tall, skinny Jamaican kid. You can imagine what he looked like in his white robes and gold tinsel halo. He was to enter from the choir loft door, above the platform where the shepherds were seated.
When the angel appeared he was to introduce himself with the words, "Fear not!" and the shepherds were then to scream in fright! That was exactly what happened.
Then, the angel straightened, put his hands on his hips, and said, with a perfectly serious straight face, "And what part of 'Fear not!' do you NOT understand!"
The picture of that angel, and his words, remains in my mind more than twenty-five years later.
This is how the Bible tells the story:
"And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord'" (Luke 2:8-12).
The arrival of angels in the Bible usually resulted in some scary seconds. But this angel had not come to instill fear, but to inspire hope. "Hope" in Scripture is the confident assurance that what is promised will happen. It's not wishful thinking but a guarantee signed, sealed, and soon to be delivered.
In the case of this particular announcement, the reason the shepherds were not to fear might not have been obvious to them right away. They may have initially wiped their foreheads and thought "Phew, he isn't here to do us harm!"
But the real reason the shepherds had no more need to fear was wrapped up in the second part of the angel's message.
The Saviour had been born.
If they feared God's judgment at the angel's appearance, there was no more need to fear! The solution to the sin problem had arrived—bundled up in swaddling clothes and lying in a feeding trough—come as one OF them and come TO all of them to rescue them from themselves.
"...and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21).
I think the shepherds were ready for less fear and a lot more forgiveness, because their initial panic turns to praise. Luke tells us they hurried off to find the Baby and when they had found him they couldn't contain their joy but hurried away to tell others (Luke 2:17, 18). Then, and only then, did they return to their sheep. "The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told" (Luke 2:20).
Life is full of things that cause us to fear. But nothing should be as fear-producing as the thought of being without a Saviour, of facing the just judgment of God for our sins. But for those into whose lives Christ has come with mercy and pardon, there is absolutely nothing more to fear—ever!
In the presence of fear—find the Baby! Whatever fear's cause, the solution is found in Him.