They were terrified, but the angel reassured them.
“Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news
that will bring great joy to all people.
The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today
in Bethlehem, the city of David!
And you will recognize him by this sign:
You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth,
lying in a manger.”
Luke 2:9b-12 NLT
In October, I had the opportunity to be at the Catalyst conference in Atlanta. It was an amazing 2 days of leadership teaching. One of my favorite sessions was the one with Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church (the one in Seattle, not Mars Hill Bible Church which is in Michigan). Driscoll talked about the fears that sometimes keep those of us in leadership from doing the things we really want to do. And then he said “You know what God’s answer to fear is? God says, ‘Fear not!'”
And he’s not wrong. Almost any time you come across a moment in the Bible where someone is terrified, God says “Fear not” (in the NLT, “Don’t be afraid!”). Driscoll said that “Fear not!” is a great answer for those who are of the personality type that is not really bound by fear. But there is another personality type that hears the words “Fear not!” and thinks: “Sure, fantastic, I’ll just stop being afraid, right? Because I can actually do that?! As if!”
And for those people, Driscoll took the time to point out the fact that God’s “Fear not!” is always immediately followed by God’s “I am with you.” And that makes all the difference.
The Shepherd’s story follows this pattern in a whole new way. Not only do the angels follow the “Fear not!” with good news, but then they send the shepherds to meet God Incarnate, God-with-us, God in the form of a tiny baby boy.
Jesus is God’s ultimate “I am with you.” And that is the best news of all.