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Special Edition             
December 23, 

Shepherds and angels - Hanna Varghese

The Angel said to them, "Do not be afraid...."
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, there were some shepherds out in the fields at night and suddenly, Luke tells us, the glory of God began to shine around them and they were terrified. "Do not be afraid," the angel said to those shepherds.
"Do not be afraid."  It's one of the more common phrases in the Bible. An angel said it to Mary. An angel said it to Joseph. The Archangel Gabriel said to Zechariah in the temple. "Do not be afraid." It is said by God or God's messengers to Abraham and Hagar and Isaac and Rachael and David. Moses says it to the people about to enter the promised land. The prophets say it to discouraged people in exile away from their homes.
"Do not be afraid." It is a good word for the world this year. The recent presidential election which has revealed the profound state of division in our country was in many ways propelled by fear, fear of each other, fear of outsiders, fear of other religions, fear of the future.
"Do not be afraid." That has to be the word for the world this Christmas. Do not be afraid, people, of one another. Do not be afraid, church, of an uncertain future. Do not be afraid, sisters and brothers, of opportunity or of sickness or failure or loss or loneliness or even death.
"Do not be afraid; for see-I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord." A savior. That is certainly and exactly what we fearful people need.
In one of his Christmas sermons Martin Luther said, "[The angel] does not simply say, Christ is born, but to you he is born." To you. To us. A child is born for us. A savior is given to the whole world, not just some of it. You can tell that because, look, he is born among the poor, among people who are vulnerable to emperors and innkeepers, vulnerable to violence, vulnerable to the very world this baby created and rightfully rules. Born to all of us, born for all of us, born to be the great good news we need, the news that God is with us, whatever the headlines say, in spite of all our fears.  God is with us and will save us.
The word of peace and good will from God that the angels sang about to those shepherds is for the whole world. This baby, born in a barn and forced to flee with his family into Egypt, grew up to make his way to a cross to prove that nothing can separate any of us from the love of God we see in him. Nothing. Not our status in the eyes of the world.  Not our differences or our hard-heartedness. Not the realities of the world here at the end of another hard year. 
"Do not be afraid; for see-I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior." That's the good news that puts this year's and every year's bad news in its place. 
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