This article was originally published in the December 2020 Edition of Back to the Bible magazine.
A hero dangles on a fatal precipice. A fiery explosion in a quiet village. Foreboding music with a stalking shark. Movies can open with astonishing acts that grab our attention and hook us in. The angelic announcement that launches the Christmas story is no exception. A bright, heavenly choir shatters a dark, sleepy sky. A supernatural being declares “fear not” to human shepherds. “Fear not” may seem like odd advice given the high drama of the night-time scene. Yet in Scripture there is a pattern between beholding God’s glory and a resulting human fear. (Luke 1:30; Isaiah 6:5)
What is your response to God’s glory? Do you cower with guilt and fear? Does it seem impersonal and inaccessible? There’s good news for feelings of fear and distance that we may experience. When we’re willing to submit to the glory we behold, our anxious fear is replaced with joy that is real and personal.
God’s glory moves us from fear to joy.
Beholding God’s glory shouldn’t move us to arrogance like the Pharisees, but to fall in fear like the shepherds. This is because His holiness always exposes our sinfulness at the same time. All of us stand sinfully exposed before a holy God and we are pressed to answer the most important question of our lives – how do we resolve our guilt? That’s why those angelic words speak life and hope to our shepherd-like hearts today: Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Jesus didn’t send an abstract piece of news, He was the good news Himself. When God saw Christ on the cross He saw me, so now when I stand before God He sees Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:21) Our great joy reflects the great peace that He secured for us at great cost. The same God who exposes our sin resolves the fear and separation we feel, and compels us to continually behold Him. We needn’t fear death when we’ve been granted eternal life. We needn’t feel hopeless when trials shift and change, because God’s presence within us never does. When our chief aim in life becomes displaying the character of God, then every circumstance gives us the opportunity to be satisfied. Joy reigns where God’s glory reigns.
God’s glory is personal.
“I bring you good news.” Our hope is not only that Jesus arrived on earth, but that He wants to arrive in us. Ever feel unqualified, unwelcome, or unseen? Enter the shepherds. We don’t know too much about them, but what’s more interesting is who they weren’t – not academics or wealthy, not businessmen or spiritual authorities. Their simple and humble status follow a pattern of who God chooses – unlikely, excluded people who don’t have much to commend them. God’s astounding favour on the shepherds to introduce the birth of His Son does not reflect the shepherds’ greatness, but God’s. His mercy cuts down every human barrier and He becomes accessible to “all people.” We don’t have to clean up our lives before we meet Him – He comes to us as we are and shapes us to who we’ll become.
Fear not. If beholding God’s glory causes you to cower, come out of hiding and let fear dissolve into joy. Both at salvation and every moment after, the same glory that makes us bow in repentance lifts us to stand in redeemed identity. You’re never beyond personal reach from God’s majestic proclamation of good news that echoes from the heavens into your circumstances today.