Shepherds Come (Luke 2:8-20)

Angel Announces – Mary Sings – Joseph Prays – SHEPHERDS COME – God with Us – Kings Journey

I joined my son's classmates on Friday to watch The Tale of Despereaux at the local theater. Two lines stood out from this movie about a mouse who decides to be a man ("Are you a mouse or a man the mouse council?" asks him).  The first line was Desperereaux's insight that "A hero doesn't appear until the world really needs one."  How true, and how much are we in search of a hero today?  I remember Drew University's poet laureate introducing the thought of Governor Tom Kean becoming our president with the thought that every institution needs a messiah and asking was Cain Abel?  Americans are in desperate search of a hero or a messiah, and anyone will do as long as the hero does!

The second line was the communal understanding that mice were to "scurry and cower" when presented with certain objects (kitchen knives) or situations (encountering people).  Despereaux is unable to perform these actions because he is a person of the book.  Not any ordinary book, but a book he was to digest (literally) as a test of his mousedom, but chose to digest (metaphorically) the stories of a knight's quest to right a wrong.

So he we are, an angel appears in the skies of Bethlehem two-thousand years ago and the shepherds had a choice.  They could scurry and cower or they could check out the new hero.  Let's see how Luke tells the story:

8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah,a the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host,b praising God and saying,
14“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

a Or the Christ
b Gk army
c Other ancient authorities read peace, goodwill among people
The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. 1989 (Luke 2:8-20). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

There it appears again, the angel says "Fear Not."

The Grand Canyon Skywalk is an engineering feat that challenges our human fears.  The rim of the Grand Canyon is 70 feet behind you.  The other side of
it is 3 miles in front of you.  Then you dare to look down and see … nothing! That is, nothing but 2,000 feet of air between you and the bottom of
the Grand Canyon.  That's almost twice the height of the Empire State building.  Oh and did I tell you that you are standing on a glass deck.  You do not have to look over the rail to look down, just look at your feet.  My knees begin to feel week just thinking about taking that walk (and I have been to outdoor observation platforms at the top of the World Trade Center and the Empire State Building in New York and the observation floors of the John Hancock Building and the Sears Tower in Chicago.

Mark Batterson in his book, In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day: How to Survive and Thrive When Opportunity Roars, suggests that psychiatrists catalog over two-thousand phobias, but only two fears innate to our human nature: the fear of falling and of loud noises.  Beyond these two fears everything else has to be learned.  This past week I thought about what it would be like for a supersonic jet to pass over and let its sonic boom pass over those on the skywalk – two fears combined!  I don't even want to go there. (Batterson's book takes us on a journey of facing our fears alongside Benaiah who "chased a lion down into a pit.  Then despite the snow and slippery ground, he caught the lion and killed it" – 2 Samuel 23:20-21).

Can you remember all the moments in your life when you were invited to "scurry and cower" in the face of a particular reality (see "Facing Fear," pp. 47-49).  They are not always about the big fears.  Do you remember the line from Lieutenant Cable's solo in the musical South Pacific?  "You've got to be taught before its too late, before you are six or seven or eight, to hate all the people your relatives hate. You've got to be carefully taught!"  Today I want you to face your fears.  Only two of these fears can be excused with a "I'm only human" shrug, the rest are on you.  You learned them and you can unlearn them!  The story of the shepherds, the story of Joseph, and the story of Mary are the stories of heroes who stepped forward to an angel's promise of "fear not."  This Christmas will you "fear not" and step into God's preferred and purposed future for you or will you "scurry and cower" and hide under the bed?  The angel announces one more time "Fear Not.