Monday, December 24th, 2012
Trinity Anglican Church, Bradford, ON
The Rev. Daniel F. Graves
Text: Luke 2:1-20
Fear not! I bring you good news of great joy for all people!
Into a world governed by fear, the message came. Into the lives of the poor and the oppressed, the message came. Into the hearts of those who hoped but dared not believe, the message came. The message, “fear not!” sounded resolutely in the face of those who governed by fear, it lifted the dark veil of oppression, and gave birth to faith in the hearts of those who doubted.
But what had changed? What was it that had cast away the fear that gripped the people of that long-ago age? The angel proclaimed, “I bring you good news of great joy!” But what was that joy? The good news was news of their salvation. Hard as it might have been to believe, had as it might have been to accept, God had come to save his people. Did Herod the King still reign over them? Was the violently imposed Roman peace still a reality for them? Were those shepherds abiding in their fields still poor shepherds? Yes. On one level, nothing seemed different, and yet, everything had changed, for fear no longer gripped their hearts. Fear no longer gripped them because they knew that the very things they feared were no longer the things that held power over them. They knew that their salvation was something so much more precious and eternal than merely their deliverance from unjust rulers or wealthy exploiters. They knew – and they knew it deep in that place where truth cannot be shaken – that they belonged to God. They knew that somehow, all the walls that they had built separating themselves from God were being broken down. How could this be? They were not sure. But at the very moment angels proclaimed the words “Fear not!” they knew their world had changed. They were saved.
Their salvation was not a spiriting out of this world. Their salvation was not a rejection of this world. Their salvation was not a destruction of this world. Rather, it was a reclaiming of this world for God. Those shepherds of old did not know it at the time; what they did know was that God always gave a sign. And what would that sign be? They would find a babe, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. Those who were gripped with fear were gripped with fear no longer. They made haste, and went to seek the sign, to see this great thing that God had done: a simple child lying in a manger. What manner of greatness was this? What manner of miracle did they witness? In what way could the birth of a child into the poverty of a stable be a sign? This, we cannot explain, except to say that they knew, once again, in that deep place of knowing where truth cannot be shaken, that they witnessed before them in that tiny child, cradled in a trough, their very salvation. For God so loved the world; and they knew it to be true.
And thus in the midst of evil powers that might seek to destroy them, they could in turn say “fear not!” When Caesars and Herods sought to oppress them, they could say “fear not!” And when their own sinfulness and their own brokenness might seem to be too heavy to bear, they could say to themselves and too each other “fear not!”
This story is an old one. It is one we know so well, but do we know it and believe it in that deep place of knowing where truth cannot be shaken? Do we believe the words of the angels, “Fear not?” Do we believe the sign that was given to the shepherds, a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger is a sign still given to you and to me? Do we believe that in deep humility, poverty and helplessness, God has saved us?
Let us go then, once again even unto Bethlehem and see this thing that the Lord has done.
In a world in which broken men and women take up arms and seek to destroy the most weak and vulnerable, and in a world in which others cry out that the only solution to violence is arms and more violence, the angels host cries out “Fear not!”
In a world seems to spin apart with absurdity upon absurdity as politicians and rulers create and shape false truth at their whims, and in which the gullible believe every falsehood spun before them, the angel host cries out, “Fear not!”
In a world in which economic woes and fiscal cliffs have become the highest concern of our shared life, the angel host cries out, “Fear not!”
Into our lives when families break apart, when loved ones die tragically, when we make terrible, terrible mistakes that we deeply regret, the angel host cries out, “Fear not!”
I tell you now what the angels proclaimed to the shepherds then: fear not!
I tell you now what the shepherds heard then: I bring you good news of great joy which shall be for all people. Unto you is born this day, a Saviour which is the Christ the Lord.
I set before you now what was set before them then: You will find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.
Let us go then, once again – or perhaps for the first time – even unto Bethlehem and see this thing that the Lord has done. If you are afraid, fear not. If you have pondered the child from a distance and yet have never drawn close, draw close now. And if you have hoped, yet never dared to believe, believe it now. The holy child is born this day for me and for you. He has come to us that we might never be far from him again and nothing will ever separate us from him ever again. Fear not, for unto you is born this day a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.