My kids (OK, and the grown-ups, too) love to listen to Jungle Jam. One of our favorite bits is from the Christmas episode.
Angel: (In very deep voice) Fear not!!
Angel: Fear not!!!
Angel: What part of “Fear not” do you not understand?!
I can understand why the shepherds might have been a bit nervous. I mean, they’re out in the fields minding their own business when other-worldly beings appear in the sky and start speaking to them. Yeah, pretty fear-inducing in my world!
So, what did the angels mean by “Fear not!” On a surface level, it’s pretty clear that they were trying to say, “Hey, we’re the good guys so you don’t need to run off and leave the sheep and lose your jobs!” We’ve already established that other-worldly beings appearing in the sky is not a normal event and one might think that it’s not necessarily a good thing. The first thing the angels need to get across to the shepherds is that the angels are on the good side and have good news for them.
But then, they give them the news that a baby has been born. OK, tell me how this is fear-inducing!! It’s not like they said that the neighboring village had just been firebombed or something. They said a baby was born in a barn. I picture these shepherds saying to each other, “Ya know, the peace on earth thing is great, but I’m not really seeing how the baby thing fits in.” But, when an angel tells you to go worship, I’m guessing that you go worship. (I’m not speaking from experience here.)
I think, though, that the angels were saying something deeper when they said, “Fear not!” I have no idea if the shepherds ever really got the whole picture or not. But, God was saying, “Don’t be afraid that everything is about to change. Don’t be afraid that all you’ve known about religion is about to come to fruition in the next 33 years.” If the shepherds could have seen what was going to happen over the next 33+ years, I’m betting there would have been some serious fear going on!! The change is good, though.
Because of what happened on that night in Bethlehem (which was likely in the spring, by the way), we don’t have to be afraid! God’s plan was played out exactly the way it was supposed to. Jesus went from baby to child to adult to crucified to resurrected. Now, we need never fear. Remember that perfect love casts out all fear. All because of that first Bethlehem morning when the angels told the shepherds to “Fear Not!”