October 30, 2015
And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Luke 2:9-10
Want to know one reason why I think Christmas is great? Because it’s the time of the year when you have the widest selection of salutations at your ready disposal.
Happy Holidays! Merry Christmas! Seasons Greetings! Feliz Navidad! That last one would be what gets used most here in Honduras.
How about one more though? “Don’t be afraid!”
OK. Maybe that doesn’t sound great on a Christmas card. But that seems to be the way the angels do it.
First, one runs into Zechariah in the Temple. “Do not be afraid.”
Next, it’s off to Mary’s place. “Do not be afraid.”
Then, shepherds out in a field. “Fear not.”
It’s the original Christmas greeting.
We rarely associate fear with Christmas, but in reading the story around Jesus’ birth in the first two chapters of Luke, we see the words “fear” or “afraid” show up eight times.
People had reason do be shaken up. Jesus was a vulnerable baby, but that didn’t make his arrival any less intense.
When we read about the baby Jesus, we read about people getting scared; getting knocked out of their comfort zones. This baby was changing everything.
Some went with the change. Mary and the shepherds, for example.
Some fought against it. Herod, for example. When he found out that a new king had been born, we read that he was “troubled.” He was captivated by selfish power and ended up murdering the babies living in Bethlehem trying to stop this new king.
Reading this, it reminds me of some of the powerful people that the Association for a More Just Society runs into in Honduras. Our calling is to fight against the violence and corruption in the country with the highest murder rate in the world.
There are some “strong” Herods here in Honduras — people who are afraid of Christmas. That’s to say, they’re afraid of a world where fearless love jeopardizes a system of power that feeds on violence and intimidation. They’re scared that when they want to say, “Be afraid!” the baby Jesus still says, “Don’t be afraid!”
There are many Christians in Honduras who, in finding their strength in Christ, continue to stand up to these scary Herods. Some of them are my coworkers who risk their lives for the cause of justice. In doing so, they remind me of the angel who went to the shepherds, not during the day, but in the night — and then, while shattering the darkness with unquenchable light, called out, “Don’t be afraid! There is good news of great joy!”
Regardless of what country we’re in, as Christians, we must pray that God would show us the dark fields, the ones we might otherwise avoid or ignore, where we can shine a light.
We must pray that God would stir up passion and courage in us to stand up to the Herods and to shine a fearless light. A Christmas light. A light that shares the good news about a game-changing savior, of whom we read in John chapter 1: “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
This reflection is by AJS Director of Communications Evan Trowbridge.