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Advent | Transforming fear to wonder

"They were terrified. The angel said, 'Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and master.'” –Luke 2:9b-11 (The Message)

Here it is! The greatest announcement any messenger could hope to deliver! Surely the angels lobbied for the honor to deliver this bundle of joyful news. The lucky messenger scoured the Judean landscape for the perfect audience and found ... shepherds?

Why would God send this great news to simple herdsmen, to people of no standing, bunking with beasts under a canopy of stars? Unsullied by hypocritical religion or corrupt governments, maybe they were still capable of the pure joy this news deserved. Perhaps living with meek and obedient sheep taught them to hear the Good News with receptive hearts.

Yet trust was not the shepherds’ initial response – nor is it often ours. “Don’t fear,” the angel commanded. It didn’t work. Can you blame them? The angel’s presence was so powerful it lit up the sky, turning night to day with “the glory of God!”

Fear is the most basic and yet most complex of emotions. Fear can inspire incredible, heroic feats, or it can leave us motionless, “frozen.” Fear is a sliding scale of emotion. It begins with our basest instincts – worry, anxiety, panic – but can become some of our noblest – respect, reverence, awe.

Thankfully, the shepherds’ interaction with the angels brought out the best in them. Because they trusted the messenger from God, they sprinted to the manger and became uninvited guests at the birth of salvation. Their trust transformed their fear into awe-filled joy!

Greg Warner is a freelance writer living in Jacksonville, Fla., and retired executive editor of “Baptist News Global” (formerly “Associated Baptist Press”).

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