God’s angel said:
‘Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord.’ (Luke 2:10-11)
These are among the hardest words to hear in our world today – the request, instruction, invitation, – offered by God, who says to us: Do not be afraid! I am bringing you good news!
God has sent God’s Son, as Saviour to you and me and to the whole world. Whoever and wherever you are, refugee, stranger, friend and neighbour: ‘To you is born this day a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord’.
There is so much fear and mistrust around us and in us. Our very DNA seems to lean towards mistrusting everyone and everything in this complicated and frightening world. Its our default behaviour and belief. We look disapprovingly, askance perhaps, at the behaviour of others and marvel at their distrust and foolish choices while confident in our own behaviour. Yet, we too, gathered here today, I suspect, don’t always quite trust God completely, to get it right for us – we don’t quite trust with all our hearts and with all our souls, with all our minds and with all our strength.
There is war spreading in Europe and the Middle East, it simmers in parts of Africa and we wonder increasingly about our neighbours. The list of those whom we mistrust seems long, as we watch small and large nations, becoming aggressive, defensive and over assertive.
We endure hate speech. We watch and experience personally the rejection of any difference as we are judged by human hearts and minds. We hear loudly, the yearning for the ‘good old days’ and a return of certainty when we imagine we felt safer. We get cranky about ‘cancel culture’, we imagine people are being too sensitive when they ask for change, we want strength and might to control our borders and keep out those whom we mistrust. We want climate control, but only on our terms and not if it upsets our ways of life and making money. We imagine we are a peaceful nation shining a light into the darkness of those countries less democratic than our own; we enjoy a moment to feel good about ourselves.
I have to say, this whole description terrifies me as I wonder where I am in this list, and it makes me think about what it would be like to live in a world with people who are not afraid, who live in love with God. Let us dare to imagine ourselves to be a joyful people, reassured by God, trusting God. As Isaiah said:
The Lord has proclaimed to the end of the earth: Say to daughter Zion, ‘See, your salvation comes; his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. (Isaiah 62:11).
Today, we celebrate the birth of God’s Son. The renewal and recreation of God’s earth, of you and I, a new world, new life. We don’t need to look in the big palaces or to great earthly powers for God to restore power, through violence, war and dictatorship. God does not work through the words and fists of violence in our homes and neighbourhoods, nor through hate speech, cynicism, discrimination, rejection of the other, or by ridicule.
We find God in the most unlikeliest of places, in kindnesses shared unexpectedly and abundantly with one another, in loving one another, in the poorest, most marginalised of places and with people who have nothing to lose. We find God in our families, in loving relationships, in awesome welcomes offered to strangers whoever they are, in the sharing of food and fellowship, in care and love offered in times of pain and grief. God is always present with us in such circumstances. It is there we find God teaching us about love, when we welcome the stranger and help the poor, it is in the toughest, saddest, most despairing of circumstances, in the brokenness of our hearts and souls that we find when we go looking, the clear, open, total assurance of God’s presence and love in our lives and in all creation. God was always and is always present. God so loved the world, God gave God’s only Son to be born and live among us, sharing our lives, reassuring us that nothing in the world will cause God to turn away from us. We celebrate Jesus’ birth today to remind ourselves God is with us, God’s salvation is among us, forever. The Holy Spirit has shaken up our lives and turned us God’s way. So pay attention. I hope you are feeling disturbed!
God’s messengers, the angels, told the shepherds about God’s Son being born in the darkness of the night. Shepherds who were mostly despised and held in contempt for their simple lifestyle. The angel told them of a baby whose arrival God had planned, who had incredible titles, of Messiah, Lord, and Saviour, who was bringing promises of joy, peace and hope. Unimaginable really. Pretty disturbing.
And then, I wondered again, how do you and I hear and accept such Godly promises and reassurance? How do we practically reject violence, angry words, hatred of people who do dreadful things to others, in our hearts, words and actions on a daily basis? How do we pray with love for war makers and torturers? For murderers and bullies and bigots when that’s all we see in the news and when we are encouraged to think about violent solutions to bring peace.
Then I remember God’s Son and realise, it is as Christians, we step back from the world, reminded of God’s love for all people. We look to Jesus, who did just that, who, even when hanging on the cross, he kept loving and sharing God’s love for everyone without reservation or conditions. His message from start to finish, right from being born as a helpless, vulnerable baby in a small town to ordinary parents, until his death, was always about not being afraid, about trusting God and God’s love to bring peace and joy. Such acceptance of God’s love and trust in God’s plans, changed his parents forever, as they worked with God, bringing God’s plans into the world. Together with God, they changed us and the world forever, showing all of us it is safe to believe and trust God and not be afraid.
For see I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people. (Luke 2:10)
So we join with the multitude of angels saying this morning, to one another, with joy and hope:
Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth, peace. (Luke 2:14)