Fight or flight. This little quip has been used over the years to describe our natural response to fear. Fear is a complicated thing. Fighting through fear can be a long process, one that isn’t contained in one simple movement of choosing to fight. In the same way, if we choose to run from our fears, it is possible for our fears to follow us, no matter where we go.
The birth of Jesus was a time of both majesty and fear. For the shepherds, the evening of Jesus’ birth might have been described as traumatic for those who were present. In the darkness of the night, in what was likely a quiet field, the biblical text states that the shepherds were terrified when an angel of the Lord, surrounded by a light that can only be described as “glory,” appeared before them.
In the moments that follow, the shepherds had a choice. It would make sense to us if they immediately ran, shocked, towards people or the town desperate for shelter and protection. Instead, we know the angel gripped their attention by addressing their fear and delivering the famous message of the messiah’s birth.
“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you; You will find a baby wrapped in cloths lying in a manger.
Suddenly, a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us. (Luke 28-15).”
If the shepherds had fled the scene, they would’ve missed a glorious, life changing moment. The course of their lives was likely changed forever because they chose to stay in a moment of great fear and lean in to the message that God had for them.
This story serves as a reminder, that God is present in our moments of doubt and fear. Whether it’s perceived threat, or a real threat. God acknowledged the fear of the shepherds and he sees our fears too. The question is whether or not our fear pushes us closer to our Heavenly Father and to put our faith and trust in him or if it drives us to seek shelter elsewhere in a state of panic.
This Christmas, our concerns and the things we dread will not simply dissipate because we have picked a day or two to focus our attention on the birth of Jesus. But celebrating the arrival of Jesus should remind us that his presence alone will have “every knee bow, and every tongue confess to God. (Rom. 14:11).” Like the shepherds, we can face our fear, fix our eyes on the Almighty God, await our instructions and move forward!