Nativity of Our Lord, Christmas Eve, Year B

Inspired by Luke 2:1-14

“In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘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.’” Luke 2:8-11 (NRSV)

I think most of us would react like the shepherds when they saw the angel of the Lord. Even those of us solid in our faith, if we were actually faced with an angel of the Lord shining with the Lord’s glory, we’d be terrified.

It probably stems from a deeply hidden feeling of inadequacy or guilt. All of us can point to ways in which we’re not quite loving enough, not quite giving enough, not quite Christian enough, and we’re afraid that, in the end, God’s judgment is to be feared.

But we’d receive the same message from God that the shepherds did: Do not be afraid—I am bringing you good news of great joy. God knows us to our very core, and God loves us to our very core. Of course we’re not loving enough or giving enough to earn God’s favor; that’s why he sent his Son, the Messiah, the Lord, to do for us what we could not do for ourselves—achieve our salvation. God’s breaking into the world is not an event to cause terror, but one to inspire celebration and rejoicing.

Let us pray. Saving God, you saw our sorry state, and sent your Son to redeem us. Enable us to rejoice at your mercy, that we may celebrate your love rather than fear your wrath. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.