“Do not be afraid” – Sermon by Rev. Brian Combs 12/3/14
Creeping spiders and creepy clowns, dizzying heights and disappointing people, public speaking and dying alone. Before joy, sorrow and exhilaration, psychologists believe that fear is our oldest emotion.
That’s likely why there are 365 references to it in the Bible. One for everyday of the year.
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
What are the shepherds so afraid of?
Of the landowners finding out that they are trespassing on their fields
That God would trust, not the prince or ruler, but the homeless shepherds with good news.
The glory of God always reflects back to us the very best and worse of ourselves.
Not all roads lead to Bethlehem, and neither do all emotions. Constricting blood vessels, pounding heart rates and clammy skin won’t get you there. Being afraid isn’t a spiritual gift; it is the paralyzing habit of denying God’s invitation.
Doubt isn’t the opposite of faith, fear is. Doubt isn’t the opposite of faith, fear is. Doubt isn’t the opposite of faith, fear is.
Tom Long tells the story of a father and son who went jogging. About half way through their run, they decided to phone ahead for pizza to be delivered once they got home.
Stopping at a public-pay phone, a houseless man approached and asked if they could spare any change? The father reached into his sweat-pant pockets and pulled out two handfuls of coins. “Here,” he said to his street sibling, “Take what you need.”
The man, hardly believing his good fortune, said, “I’ll take it all.” He scooped up all the coins and turned to go. Then the father realized he had no change for the phone. “Pardon me,” he said to the houseless man, “I need to make a call. Can you spare some change?”
The man reached into his pockets and said, “Here, take what you need.”
“If the shepherds don’t speak up,” reminds Barbara Brown Taylor, “then Joseph might divorce, Mary might be stoned, the child left abandoned. The shepherd’s response is as important as Mary’s womb and the Holy Spirit’s conception.”
“God requires human partners.” “God requires human partners.” “God requires human partners,” a holy dependance on one another.
What are the shepherds afraid of?
The Advent truth that the created have been entrusted with the Creator’s Christ child. That God comes in diapers with the vulnerability of a newborn that can either be cradled or crucified.
After this passage, we never hear from the shepherds again. Perhaps that’s because the baby boy born in Bethlehem grows up to be the One Good Shepherd who calls us to proclaim with our partnerships what the angel said long ago, “Do not be afraid; for see- I am bringing you good news of great joy…”