I may have written some similar type of thoughts like this post before, but it has just been on my mind increasingly more and more this Christmas. When you listen to the Christmas story year after year you sometimes start to have different aspects to it that jump out to you. There is a lot to be said for reading all the parts of the Christmas story in Scripture the whole way through in one sitting. Sometimes you get a bigger picture on things.
There has been on phrase that has jumped out to me over the last few years. “Do not be afraid.” Angel’s keep giving that statement whenever they go meet someone within the Christmas story. It is one of the first things out of their mouths. “Don’t freak out now. There is no reason for concern.”
I used to think they said this just because it would be very intimidating to see an angel in all its glory. While I do think that is part of it, I have begun to wonder if there is more to the story than that.
Let’s back up briefly. The last book of the Old Testament is Malachi. Malachi kind of ends a downer. It talks about how God’s people need to be faithful to Him otherwise there is a consequence. The consequence is judgment. God’s people have the threat of a curse looming over their heads. They took that threat seriously. They tried to follow the law obsessively for fear of further judgment. The final verse says “And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” That word curse is actually a really heavy word for destruction. It is the kind of language God uses in action against sin. It’s ugly. I can’t say for certain, but I think there were some people out there who were just kind of waiting for the lightning to strike down on them.
Now picture being visited by a powerful and intimidating angel. You would freak out. You just would. I bet some though, “This is it. We didn’t obey well enough. God has gotten sick and tired of this. We are goners. This is our global flood. I’m not going to make it out of this.” Imagine then hearing those three words, “Do not fear.” One of those scenes has the angel continue on to say “I bring good news.” God is not reaching down on this earth to enact that curse. He is not coming out to seek vengeance, but he is coming down to deal with sin, and he is going to deal with it on his terms.
To really summarize it, what angels are saying is “Don’t panic. The story isn’t going to end with judgment.” I think that is what blows my mind about the Christmas story for me. So much silence, waiting, wondering, and even fearing over what was to come. Suddenly God comes in to say that the story is only at the halfway mark. We are just about to enter into the second act.
That story is still being told to us now. Our stories don’t need to end with judgment. We don’t need to fear because God presented a third act to the story. It is where resurrection and redemption have the final say. It is a chapter where man feared God had come to wage war, but instead came to bring peace.