December 9, 2020
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 and lying in a manger.”
The nights out here on the farm can be incredibly still. When there is no moon and no wind, it’s what we refer to as “farm dark.” It can be so dark that it’s almost impossible to see what you are doing or what’s in front of you. I’ve walked right into the wall of our chicken coop because I was unable to distinguish it from the blackness of the field, forest or sky. The entire landscape feels inky black and silent.
If the sky ever exploded in the “glory of the Lord” on one of those nights, not only would I most certainly be blinded, but I would probably need to change my underwear. That’s how I imagine the reaction of those shepherds. The arrival of the angel was so dramatically unexpected, it was terrifying – the jump scare of all jump scares. Yet, in a very short amount of time they transitioned to belief and action.
This week we are viewing the nativity story through the eyes of peace. On Monday, we talked of peace that goes beyond control of our circumstances. Today, we can look at peace in the midst of fear. But how could the shepherds find peace in the midst of literally the most terrifying moment of their lives? I don’t think the angel’s admonition to stop being afraid really made too much of a difference.
You see, fear makes us focus. But often it’s the wrong type of focus. Simply being told to focus elsewhere is rarely effective. It’s the reason 911 responders start with “What’s your emergency?” The mind of someone calling 911 is often tightly focused on an unimportant detail and they have to be prompted (sometimes several times) to give the reason for the 911 call.
But the angel’s ineffective command was quickly followed by something that made an enormous difference. He began to tell a story of good news. A story of God’s plan to redeem the world. And he also told the shepherds the signs to watch for so they would know the story was true. So, the angel calls the attention of the shepherds back to something higher. Something bigger. The savior they have been waiting for is finally here. This shift from narrow focus to broader perspective brings us peace. It’s the equivalent of the 911 responder saying, “the police are on their way.” Something bigger than your emergency is in process, even if you can’t see it yet.
The same is true for you, right now. If you are feeling afraid, be reminded of these verses from Psalm 121:
I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
Lift up your eyes and look for a truth that is higher and wider than your current predicament. Begin looking for signs that help is on the way, and let that bring you peace.