Bible Society of South Africa

In step with God: From fear to joy - 12 December 2023

By Louise Gevers

Bible text(s)

10but the angel said to them, “Don't be afraid! I am here with good news for you, which will bring great joy to all the people.

Fear and joy don’t usually go together, but, who’s seen an angel before?

When I think back of Nativity Plays I’ve seen, the shepherds were usually a noisy, jolly lot –and anything but afraid – as teachers vainly tried to stop them talking and jostling to make them aware that the timid angel, with shiny wings, had appeared.

But the shepherds in the fields, that dark night, when the glory of heaven surrounded the angel in brilliant light, were not in a Nativity Play. Theirs was the original – the real deal – and this stupendous sight held these poor shepherds, diligently watching over their sheep in the cold, in awe.

I love that God chose these men who took their humble calling seriously, and revered God, to be the first to hear this astounding news: “This very day in David’s town your Saviour was born- Christ the Lord!” (Luke 2:11) Their response was immediate and joyful as they, alone blessed with the glorious sight of the heavenly host, hurried to see, and wonder at, the amazing sight of God as a baby, in a manger. The truth revealed, fear defeated, the shepherds went back to their flocks rejoicing.

We, like the shepherds, can also celebrate the good news of the truth of Jesus’ birth, and receive in faith what the angel has said about the child and “sing praises to God” (Luke 2:20) because of what he has done for the world. Christmas transforms our experience of life. He is Immanuel – God with us – who brings true joy and peace and turns fear to gladness.

When our Christmas celebrations forget Jesus as the reason for this blessed season, we ignore “the truth that will set us free” (John 8:31) and, unlike the shepherds, will never experience the pure joy and blessing the angel’s message brings.

There are many roads that we have to walk in life but, wherever we are, when the light of God’s truth shines in us, everything else takes its rightful place. The shepherds’ fear turned into joy, the true joy we also experience when we’ve met and believe in the Baby in the manger, whose “perfect love drives out all fear”. (1 John 4:18)

What does that holy night mean to us? How do we respond to the news of the Saviour’s birth? Have we, like the shepherds, heard and believed, or, for us, will this miracle of grace forever remain a Nativity Play?

Prayer: Gracious God, give us believing hearts to welcome you as the Baby who come to live among us. May we celebrate your love to a lost world with true joy this Christmas. Amen


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