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Archive for December, 2015

Don’t Be Afraid

A Meditation on Luke 2: 8-16 for All God’s Children

December 24, 2015

 

Years and years ago when Jesus was born, people were scared of a lot of things. For one thing, their country was ruled by the Roman empire. There were Roman soldiers everywhere. The Roman rulers did fearful things to people who tried to challenge them.

 

And then there was a local ruler, King Herod, who was known far and wide for being so mean. You didn’t want King Herod to get mad at you.

 

It was a scary time for Jesus’ mother, Mary, to be traveling to Bethlehem. It was almost time for him to be born. What if it happened before she and Joseph could get to shelter? She was worried.

 

And there were also some people who were afraid of God. These were people who could not do all the things the Bible experts said they had to do in order to please God. Other people looked down on them, so they figured God looked down on them, too.

 

Now shepherds were in this category. People thought shepherds were low and dirty. Second class at best. Sinners by definition. Shepherd equals sinner.

 

That night, when Jesus was born, shepherds were out in the fields outside of Bethlehem, keeping watch over their sheep to make sure the sheep were safe. Suddenly, there was a blast of light, and an angel, a messenger from God stood there, and the shepherds were terrified. Of course they were startled! I’ll bet they thought they were seeing a ghost at first. Or maybe they realized right away that this messenger came from God, and they thought, “Oh Oh! We must be in for it! We’ve done something wrong for sure!”

 

But what did the angel say? The first thing the angel said was, “Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid, shepherds, for see? I’m bringing you good news of great joy for everyone—everyone! To you and everyone is born this day in the city of David a Savior, the Messiah, Christ the Lord.

 

“This will be a sign for you: you will find the baby wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”

 

I’m sure the shepherds’ mouths were still hanging open with surprise, when suddenly there was a whole crowd of angels with the first angel, and together they sang praises: “Glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth, peace, goodwill among people.” The word from God to the world is peace and good will.

 

In other words, “Shepherds, this baby is born for you, a gift from God to you. And the word from God to you is peace and good will. God loves YOU.”

 

“Wow! Let’s go see!” the shepherds said, and off they went.

 

It was clear. Whatever anybody else thought, God loved those shepherds, and Jesus was born for them. Jesus was born for everyone.

 

Most, if not all of us, know what it is like to feel afraid. Sometimes scary things happen to us or to people we love. Sometimes we hear of fearful things on the news. Sometimes we are scared of other people. Sometimes we might wonder whether God could really love us, just as we are.

 

But what God said to those shepherds through the angels is what God says to us now. God says the exact same thing to us now. “Don’t be afraid. I’ve got good news for you. Jesus is born for you. God’s peace and goodwill is for you…yes YOU! All of you, each and every one!”

 

When we are afraid, God wants us to remember that God is with us. We are not alone. We don’t have to face it all by ourselves. God will help us. Jesus is born for us, and he loves us forever and ever. He will never leave us.

 

And one thing we definitely do not need to be afraid of is God himself. God looks at us with eyes that are full of good will, good will and love for all. That’s what God told us when God sent Jesus to the whole human family.

 

We can be courageous each day, even when we do still feel scared, because we know God is with us, and we know Jesus loves us. He is born for us!

 

“Wow!” the shepherds said. “Let’s go see the baby!” Wow! What a wonderful gift of love from a wonderful God!

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In those dark days when Caesar Augustus was hailed as lord and savior, the One who really is Lord and Savior was born in tiny Bethlehem.  In these dark days, it does seem that the likes of Caesar Augustus are still in control.  Do we dare hail a different king?

In Those Days

A Sermon on Isaiah 43:14-21 and Luke 2:1-20

 

Now in those days the emperor Augustus was the most powerful king of the most powerful kingdom the world had yet seen: the Roman empire. Looking at the empire as a whole, it was a time of great stability. Things were more stable than they had been in many years. Some viewed it as a golden age of peace and called it the Pax Romana—the peace of Rome, or the Pax Augustana—the peace of Augustus. It was a good time to be alive—for the wealthy and powerful at any rate. Around the empire Augustus was acclaimed as lord, divine son, bringer of peace, and savior of the world. Yes—those very words, including savior and lord. That’s what people were calling Caesar Augustus!

 

But what they called peace was enforced by the threat of violence. Keep the subjects afraid. Any hint of unrest was quickly squashed by the mightiest army the world had yet seen. The Romans had an especially feared execution technique, called crucifixion, and they used it regularly. Not everybody stayed in line, but most did, most of the time.

 

Maintaining the empire and the peace of Rome required lots and lots of revenue. That meant lots and lots of taxes—steep taxes, and the Romans didn’t want to miss any tax payers. Accurate tax rolls were a must.

 

That’s how Mary and Joseph found themselves caught up in forces they couldn’t control. They found themselves on the road to Bethlehem at the worst possible time: late in Mary’s pregnancy. (more…)

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