“And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round them; and they were sore afraid.”(Luke 2:9, KJV)
Have you ever been so fearful that it made you sore? I’m not sure if that’s what the King James translation of that familiar verse about the Christian shepherds really means, but I do understand about being afraid. Perhaps you do too.
One particularly dark and stormy night, a mother was tucking her small son into bed. She was about to turn the light off when he asked in a trembling voice, “Mommy, will you stay with me all night?” Smiling, the mother gave him a warm, reassuring hug and said tenderly, “I can’t dear. I have to sleep in Daddy’s room.” A long silence followed. At last it was broken by a shaky voice saying, “That big sissy!”
We all know what it’s like to be fearful. Psychologists now list several hundred fears that officially qualify as “phobias.” These include claustrophobia, the fear of closed places; acrophobia, the fear of heights; hydrophobia, the fear of water; peladophobia, the fear of baldness; and porphyrophobia, the fear of the color purple.
If this little exercise in psychological definitions bothers you, you may be suffering from calyprophobia, the fear of obscure meanings. Or maybe you’re afraid of being afraid. In that case, you may have phobophobia, the fear of fear itself. (Apparently that was a weakness of FDR.)
The Bible is full of people who, like us, were afraid. Afraid of death, persecution, failure, embarrassment…or in the case of the shepherds, afraid of glowing angels appearing in the midst of their sleepy sheep in the middle of the night. All through the story of the “first Christmas” it seems, there were fearful people. And to each, the message was simple: Fear not.
To those shepherds, the angels proclaimed God’s great cure for fear: the Gospel. “Fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.”
Good news! That was the point of Jesus’ coming, you know. A Savior was born, Christ the Lord. And because we now have our Immanuel–“God with us”–we never have to be afraid again. Joy to the world!
I must say this Christmas season that I count it such a joy to be your pastor. I pray that you and your family have a blessed Christmas, and a wonderful New Year. I hope to see you on Sunday.