Have you ever noticed that when the angels appear in the Bible, the very first thing they say to people is always something like, “Don’t be afraid”? Real angels must be far more intimidating than we imagine in our art and poetry.
So when the angel came to the shepherds with the news of Jesus’s birth, the first message had to be an appeal for courage. “Fear not, I am not here to harm you. Nothing bad is going to happen.” And presumably the shepherds calmed down enough to listen.
We’re not exactly afraid of angels any more, but everything else frightens us to death. The world seems violent and out of control and sad.
What the shepherds heard still fills our hearts. Fear not. Be brave. There is good news of the greatest joy. Everybody needs to hear this. God has sent the savior, in a manger, in Bethlehem.
The baby from the manger is loose in the world now, and we point to him and praise him and there is, indeed, great joy.
God is still at work, even using our weak voices and our clumsy hands to make love and grace and mercy real and visible.
I pray that the courage and joy that Christmas brings into the world will sustain our hope for all the days that lie before us. And I know that the God who is with us, the God who shared this world as one of us, will hold us in love now and forever.
Blessed, merry Christmas, in Jesus,
Bishop Richard H. Graham
Excerpts from Christmas Message sent to rostered leaders of the synod on 12/20/12