…Welcome to our world…
· On this Christmas eve (eve) filled with stars and trees and cookies and carols and little kids dressed in their finest, it really is a lovely world isn’t it…?
And yet…it isn’t…it has not been a very lovely world this year… there’s fear in the air.
NY Times: Fear in the Air - Americans Look Over Their Shoulders
· “a wide expanse of America’s populace finds itself engulfed in a collective fear, a fear tinged with confusion and exasperation and a broad brew of emotions. The fear of the ordinary. Going to work. Eating a meal in a restaurant. Sending children to school. Watching a movie.
· Psychologists call it “anticipatory anxiety”. We’re scared something is going to happen.
Maybe you’re scared too. Maybe you wish you weren’t so afraid.
· After the most recent tragedy in CA, NY Times asked readers to write in with what they were afraid of… more than 5,000 wrote in
· All ages…both genders…all ethnicities…all races…all political ideologies:
16-year-old in Berkeley: “I am afraid almost constantly.”
23-year-old Cleveland woman: “I hate this world.”
Taylor, 25: “It’s a terrifying thought to think about how easily something awful could occur. Ihave to not let my mind go there.”
Raj, 30: “I do not feel safe on a daily basis because people THINK I’m Muslim and treat me accordingly.”
Adrienne, 30: “As ablackwoman in America. I fear road rage or saying ’no’to a catcaller could end my life.”
Wendy, 49: “It is a constant, grinding anxiety. And it gets louder every single day.”
Linda ,68: “No one is safe in America.”
I’ll bet many of you would concur with these folks…I wish I wasn’t so afraid.
Here’s what I want you to hear tonight – you needn’t be. You need not be afraid.
· And I’m going to show you a path from fear to peace.
· We’ll see this path from fear to peace in an unlikely place… among an unlikely group of everyday folks:
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." Luke 2:8-14
Afraid? Well, these guys started the evening afraid…every night they were a little scared.
· “keeping watch” – lit. warily keeping guard
o they were guarding vulnerable creatures/in essence, their bank accounts from animals and humans.
· already tense … the air exploded with…
o light (brilliant eyeball piercing light), the glory of the Lord
o sound – a voice of a being
· now they were “terrified”
o lit. afraid with fear: fear to the 2nd power fear X 2
· It’s almost a humorous that the angel says: “do not be afraid!”
PAUSE: That’s God’s word to you tonight…do not be afraid…do not be overwhelmed…there is a path from fear to peace.
For the shepherds it was a literal path … the path from the field to the city…Implied in “you will find…” was GO, leave your fields and go to Jesus
And just as maybe they were settling down a bit from the light and the voice and the angel…the whole scene turns into shock and awe:
· “A great company” or “multitude” “ Literally “massive army” of brilliant angels appeared – ironically announcing “peace on earth”
o Peace = fascinating word (especially for the afraid)
§ peace of mind; wholeness, lose ends tied up, all is well.
And so the shepherds left their fields… they went to Jesus. They abandoned their fear and experienced peace.
And so should you.
· look, you can’t stay where you are:
o stop with the dinner on the lap while you subject yourself to violent images and violent rhetoric on cable news.
o stop with the fear mongering facebook posts and reposts
o stop with the fascination with conspiracy theories
o stop with the cowering
o stop with the fingernail biting and the nervous tapping and the woe is me-ing
· You cannot stay where you are…you need peace…Go to Jesus…and …Do not be afraid!
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about." So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. Luke 2:15-18
Now, there’s a transformation for you:
…from terrified victims to ardent seekers…
…from petrified casualties…to passionate missionaries…
They lost their fear because they left their fields and went to Jesus….And so will you.
I know you might be wondering…well, what does it mean to go to Jesus?
· I’ll come back to that in a minute…but let me tell you what will happen to you if you do “leave your fields and go to Jesus”
1) you will experience peace. That’s a promise from Jesus himself
Nearly 30 years later…
Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubledand do not be afraid. John 14:1,27
· OK…so this is mysterious, but is real…when you go to Jesus you will find your fear lifted and peace will come upon you.
· Actually more than come upon you…it will enter into you and become a part of your being…
· How? his Holy Spirit will enter into you. The great miracle of salvation.
2) you will experience courage…and become peacemakers.
One last time look at what happened to the shepherds…
When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. Luke 2:15-18
In a matter of hours these guys became world changers. Peacemakers.
A few weeks ago… New York Daily News: God Isn’t fixing This (see image)
· It was a reaction to people calling for prayer after the San Bernardino tragedy. It was quite shocking and elicited fierce reactions…
· Now, this may surprise you I kinda agree with it…God isn’t fixing it…directly
o For the most part, God is not personally intervening in the things that scare us the most these days.
o Yes, at times he does miracles…he does answer prayers but mostly God tends to fix things through us…his people…starting with the shepherds.
· Peacemaking is the responsibility of courageous children of God.
o and when you “go to Jesus” he not only fills you with peace…he fills you with courage…and a sense of mission to join his efforts to repair all the broken places of this world.
o imagine THAT…you…scared and timid…cautious and fearful…becoming a world-altering peacemaker.
It will happen if you go to Jesus…
So, how does one DO that?
· simply, it is a matter of surrender…which involves ALL of you (mind, heart and will – belief, desire, choice)
· and from there it is a matter of following him, daily.
May I recommend something to you?
If you wish you weren’t so afraid…
If you wish you felt more significant…
If you wish you weren’t so depressed…
If you wish you weren’t so anxious…
Not only should you surrender your life to Jesus…you should come back to church on a regular basis. Seriously.
Starting in January 2-3 start to make it a habit. I’ll show you over the next year what it means to believe…and be transformed…and find your place in this world…and love your family…
I’ll show you how to believe in God. And you will meet him. And you will never be the same.
But…you’ve got to leave your fields…and you have to come to Jesus.