Terror and joy

I put my feet in the shoes of the shepherds yesterday as I was reading about the angels announcing Jesus’ birth to them in Luke 2:8-20.

How did they feel?  I believe they felt terror and joy.  And I believe that is how we should approach God, too.

They were sitting on a hillside with their flock of sheep just as they had done many times before.  They were probably bored.

But then suddenly an angel appeared out of the darkness and a great light surrounded him – the glory of God. They were terrified – I would be, too.

The angel says they should be joyful – not afraid – because a Saviour was born that very day.  Incredibly, he was in a manger – not a royal bed.

Immediately, a whole choir of angels appeared, praising God.  The shepherds rushed off to Bethlehem to see Jesus.  And then they spread the news excitedly.

The passage ends with these words: “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”

They had good reason to glorify God.  Angels had appeared and told them the good news about Jesus and where he was to be found.  He was there in a manger, just as the angels said.

Like Mary, I pondered these things.

The shepherds were right to be terrified when the angel first appeared to them.  It was out of the ordinary and dramatic.  Nothing prepared them for this sudden appearance.

It is good to be awestruck by God, to fear him for his great power and glory.  Too often, I take God for granted.  Unconsciously, I domesticate God, making him little more than another man in my mind.

But somewhere in the Narnia chronicles, C.S. Lewis says that the lion Aslan (a picture of God) is not a tame lion.  He is to be feared and treated with the utmost respect and reverence.

And yet this passage speaks about joy and peace.  The angel choir says in verse 14: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests.”

We are to treat God with great respect because he is a powerful God who has our very lives in his hands.  But he comes to bring us joy and peace when we place our faith in him.

Like the shepherds, I want to praise him for what he has done.

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