Fear and Trembling at Advent

Scripture tells us that, as shepherds were watching their flock at night, an angel of the Lord came and told them of Christ’s birth. Surprised, terrified, in awe—the shepherds stared at the angel who said to them, “Fear not.”

Topic: Advent

Scripture tells us that, as shepherds were watching their flock at night, an angel of the Lord came and told them of Christ’s birth. The stillness of the desert air and the calm of the darkness was interrupted by an angel of the Lord, fierce and mighty—God’s glory shining brightly. Surprised, terrified, in awe—the shepherds stared at the angel who said to them, “Fear not.”

You and I typically jump ahead to the next part of the story—that they made their way to see the baby boy. But stay a minute. Study this scene.

Think about that night—the sky opened up and the glory of the Lord shone around these shepherds. Their hearts trembled at the fierce angel who then said to them, “Fear not. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord!”

As if the presence of the one warrior angel was not enough to make the point for these shepherds, a multitude of hosts appeared and the night burned brightly with their praise: “Glory to God in the Highest—and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!”

We see Mary and Joseph not too far away in the stable. Young Mary, trembling and preparing to give birth to the Hope of the Ages, without midwife or doctor, let alone drugs to numb the imminent pain. She is held by her betrothed, Joseph, a man who months earlier was trying to arrange a quiet divorce. No doubt, he trembled then. But an angel of the Lord came to Joseph in the darkness and said, “Fear not.”

And so the Lord speaks to you and to me, saying, “Be not afraid, it is I.” Light has exposed the darkness of our own hearts and has overcome it by the cross. Our hearts indeed tremble now, not with fear at His appearing, but with gratitude because He has come to save us. In Him we have a Rescuer. Without Him we are, at most, thin veneers of who we wish to be. He has come to restore our humanity.

As we approach the day on which we remember His birth, we enter into a starlit night where the still air fell like velvet on the shoulders of shepherds. Stars burned with the brightness of childlike wonder. This night, the Hope of all the ages drew His first breath. A young mother gazed at her child’s face. In her heart and in her hands she held the weight of the boy who had come to set His people free.

Our hearts tremble with love for that we have yet to see—as we long for the day when we see Him face to face.

Come, Lord Jesus.

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