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Bethany Evangelical
Lutheran Church

Ishpeming, Michigan † Est. 1870

 
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The Savior Brings Peace Into A World of Fear

Christmas Eve
December 24, 2007
Luke 2:1-20
Bethany Lutheran Church

“Do not be afraid” said the angels to the shepherds. The angels have come announcing the best news on earth since the creation of the world, and the shepherds are terrified. Fear seems to be the typical response to a divine encounter. Most of us have seen dozens of representations and drawings of angels, however biblical angels are not cute cuddly little cherubs that are marketed at new-age bookstores. And what of those shepherds, those low class citizens from the rural countryside who were often regarded as uneducated and crude, the ones to whom the message first came announcing that the birth of the Messiah had taken place? Our Savior has come to the lowly and the marginalized. The lowly are lifted up. Good news has come to plain ordinary peasants.

The shepherds were merely out in the fields keeping watch over their sheep. They were probably engaged in conversations with one another as they watched over their sheep. Perhaps they were even entertaining themselves by playing little pipe flutes. The season would have been a warm one and the date would not have been December 25th. Jewish people did not celebrate birthdays and so the early Christians had no reason to preserve the actual date of Jesus’ birth. The shepherds most certainly would not have expected to have a visit from these terrifying angels in the fields. Divine encounters were believed to happen within the confines of the temple walls, not amidst smelly shepherds and sheep dung.

“Do not be afraid”, said the angel to the smelly shepherds, standing in dirty fields. Exchange the great fear that you have and replace it with great joy. A Savior has been born, a Savior who is the Messiah, the Lord. And he has been born for you.

I hope the shepherds quickly got over their fear of that one angel, because after the announcement of Jesus’ birth, a whole choir of angels appeared, praising God with perfect pitch and harmony: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among whom he favors!” After the angels left, the shepherds held a committee meeting to determine what to do next. Some shepherds were anxious to get to Bethlehem to see this child whom the angels had announced. Other shepherds were probably not looking forward to moving their herds of sheep so late at night. The darkness is dangerous for sheep who cannot see their predators or the edges of dangerous cliffs. Even at this terrifying and yet terrific announcement, the shepherds contemplated their response of faith.

Uncertain of what lay ahead, the shepherds went to Bethlehem, in search of the child. And when they found Mary and Joseph with the infant, the angel’s message about the significance of the child had been confirmed. The shepherds then left there to tell others what they had seen and heard, the shepherds becoming the first evangelists to share the good news.

Then there is Mary. Mary who walked to Bethlehem, weighed down by the burdens and pressures of life and her own physical limitations. Mary, a mother, who like most mothers has a love for her child that is more deep than anyone could ever know but herself, a love without boundaries, a love that knows no limits. Mary, a virgin, soon to be married. From what we know about societies and cultures during that period of history, it is estimated that Mary would have been about thirteen years old.

Mary, said to be too young and yet bearing a special child, her pregnancy, the virgin birth, said to be impossible. Mary, probably felt alone, afraid and anxious of the unknown, uncertain of what the future would hold. For children are so fragile, any number of things can happen to them, physical ailments, diseases, development disorders, or they might be social outcasts. All of these possibilities were enough to create great anxiety for Mary. They are enough to create anxiety for any mother. Unsure of how to even raise a child, let alone the child of God. And yet despite her anxiety, Mary maintained great faith.

Tonight, the message extends beyond the shepherds and comes to us, bringing a promise of peace. Despite however anxious, tired and stressed we may be, the Savior continually comes to us, granting us peace amidst life’s uncertainties. The shepherds are terrified and afraid. Mary is young and scared. And many of us fear the uncertainties of what lies ahead. It is for all of us that the Savior has been born. It is for all of us that the light has come to quench the darkness of our lives.

Let us celebrate the birth of Christ, yet again this year, and let us joyfully add our voices to the choir of angels, triumphantly praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” The Advent light has come and it is now Christmas. Thanks be to God.

Vicar Like Smetters

 
 

Bethany Lutheran Church
715 Mather Avenue
Ishpeming, MI 49849

Phone: 906-486-4351
Fax: 906-486-9640
contact@bethanyishpeming.org

Rev. Warren Geier, Pastor
pastor@bethanyishpeming.org

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“Whoever
welcomes
one such child in my name
welcomes me, and whoever
welcomes me welcomes
not me
but the
one who
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