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DFLC Sermon - Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 2023 - Rev. Marie Meeks

Merry Christmas!

 

We have been saying, “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” for weeks now. Of course, at the first Christmas, something very different was said, “Do not be afraid.” Mary heard those words from the angel, when she was told that she would bear the Son of God. And tonight, we hear the same words from another angel, “Do not be afraid,” speaking to the shepherds at night.

 

I tried to find out how many times this phrase is used in the Bible. The only sure answer I found was, “A LOT!” It is said in many different ways:  “Do not be afraid,” “Have no fear,” “Fear not,” “Don’t be anxious,” “Do not worry, and on, and on. There was a lot to be afraid of, in Israel at that time. The Romans occupied the country. And you could, at any moment, lose everything if you didn’t have enough to pay your taxes. Many children died before their third birthday. There were snakes, and famines, and storms, and on, and on.

 

And now, while the shepherds were tending their sheep by night, the whole sky lit up as if it were daytime. Then angels appeared – thousands of angels! Somehow the shepherds were able to calm down enough to listen to what the angels said, and find their way, to the place where Jesus was born.

 

Fear is something we all experience. From when we were little, monsters under the bed, vampires, zombies. As we got older, we had different fears. “Will I pass this test?” “Will my mom find out it was me who broke the window?” As adults, the fear just keeps on coming. “If one of us gets laid off, how will we feed our family?” “Will I find another job?” “Are my kids doing okay?” “Will there be another pandemic, earthquake, fire, or war?”

 

And now, there are so many things to be afraid about, listing them would be overwhelming. And yet we hear, again and again in the Bible, God calls us through angels and prophets and Jesus himself, “Do not be afraid.” “Have no fear, for I am with you, even to the end of the age.” And in the Psalms, as well. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4).

 

Because of Jesus, we can hear the angel’s reassurance and be comforted. Jesus is God’s love, in-person. Jesus, a little baby grown to a man who understands everything life is about, who knows our fears. Because of Jesus, we can live without fear. We are loved. We can carry on, and share the Good News. We can be brave enough to share

the news of God’s love for us. Because of Jesus, the helpless baby, the rabbi, the Savior, the one who showed us the power of God’s love which dispels all fear. Amen.

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