Christmas has always been a time of reflection for me. Going back to childhood I can remember thinking how slow the buildup to Christmas was. There seemed to be endless amounts of time to look back on the mistakes and trouble throughout the year that I had, let’s be honest, willingly gotten myself into. There was always the fear that maybe I had not done enough good to fool Santa. As an adult I tend to reflect on things a little differently. I am deeply heartened by the celebration of the birth of a savior who has come into the world to be with us, to walk with us through pain and suffering and who gives us unimaginable joy. A savior who has given us a new beginning free of fear and full of hope.
I believe that as we get older the list of things that we fear seems to increase. The responsibilities of adulthood are exchanged for the carefree days of our youth. The future can bring worries that might not have even occurred to us even a short time ago. Fear of the uncertain can be debilitating for many robbing us of our joy in the present. Fears about the wellbeing of our children, saving for the future, and many stories of doom and gloom on the news only heighten this sense of uncertainty. BUT, the birth of Christ changes this uncertainty for all of those who put their faith in him. With the birth of Jesus we are forever adopted into the family of a loving God who tells us not to fear.
The story of Jesus’ birth has always filled me with wonder and hope. There were so many challenges for Joseph and Mary to get through that without the guidance and support of God it would have been impossible. Every detail of the story of Christ’s birth speaks to the miracle that occurred.
In the retelling of Jesus’ birth I have always been drawn to the story of the announcement to the shepherds by the angel. I always imagine how lonely and hard the life of a shepherd could be. It is amazing God chose to announce the birth of Christ to a group of people who held very little power in that world. He didn’t choose kings or magistrates. He chose lowly shepherds. The shepherds’ response of fear is understandable. We often respond in the same way. When we face something that is new, different or the outcome is uncertain we tend to respond in fear. But the birth of Jesus changes that. In the very real challenges that life brings us we can now respond in joy in the concrete surety that the birth of Christ has forever altered the paths of untold masses. We are benefactors of the pronouncement of the angel.
“Fear not, for behold,
I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior,
who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11
The angel’s announcement is followed by the shepherds quickly seeking out the newborn savior. They let those around them know of what the Lord had revealed to them. And after visiting the infant Jesus, “...the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told to them.” Luke 2:20
I love the reaction of the shepherds throughout this section of scripture. Their response to all that had happened had run the gamut of emotions from fear to joy to praise, and I believe that is a great mindset to have in this season of hope.
Around Christmas time I try to reflect on this mindset. In reflection the unfounded fears created throughout the year give away to joy at the coming celebration of the birth of Christ. This joy in turn develops into a deep sense of praise. Praise that God loved his creation so much that he became flesh and dwelt among us. That is my prayer for us this Christmas. That fear would be displaced by great joy that would develop into praise of the miracle that has taken place.