When I was a kid, I was always afraid to go to sleep on Christmas Eve. Year after year I had the same nightmare. I don’t remember the dream itself, but even today, I remember how terrified I was. I guess I was too wound up, or afraid Santa would pass our house by if I weren’t asleep.
We rarely focus on this—it doesn’t come out in children’s Christmas pageants—but the first Christmas began in terror for unsuspecting shepherds. Luke 2:9 says, “An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.”
The old King James translation says they were “sore afraid.”
The Greek word for fear, phobia, is used twice in this sentence, first as a verb and then as a noun, along with the adjective mega, meaning “great.”
Literally, the shepherds were “greatly afraid, fearful, mega.”
Isn’t Christmas supposed to be about warm feelings?
And what were they afraid of? It could not have been because they forgot to buy batteries, or because their crazy uncle showed up unannounced.
Luke said it was God’s glory. The Divine Essence on display in the night sky. The manifestation of the excellence and power of God. They saw God for who God really was, and they realized who they were in comparison.
That’s the primal fear, the fear beneath all other fears.
To overcome that fear, God had to do something that no other religion can comprehend: God was born for you.
God became vulnerable. God came in need of you.
When you take the Christ child into your arms, God shines the light of his glory on you. God sees you for who you really are and finds you beautiful.
“Fear not,” says the God of Love. “I was born for you.”