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Fear & Awe

Luke 2:8-14 

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    And in the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields, and keeping watch over their flock by night. [9] And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. [10] And the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; [11] for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. [12] "And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths, and lying in a manger." [13] And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
        [14] "Glory to God in the highest,
        And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased."

 Today, as we light the 4th Advent Candle, the Angel Candle, we celebrate the Angel’s message and are reminded of God’s love in sending His son.  John wrote, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16 KJV) Last week, as we lit the Shepherd’s candle, we reflected upon the phrase, “for all the people.”  The good news that the Angels brought was intended for everyone–even the shepherds.  Today we do not focus so much upon the intended recipients as we do the message itself–the message of love.  It isn’t exactly a Christmas Carol, but the final verse of “At Calvary” captures the message of the Angel’s candle: “Oh, the love that drew salvations’ plan!  Oh, the grace that bro’t it down to man!  Oh, the mighty gulf that God did span at Calvary.”

 Yes, the hymn’s focus is probably more appropriate for a Good Friday Service than a Christmas service, yet the “good news of great joy” was about a special birth that would lead to a special death. 

 They rejoiced, but please notice that they were also afraid.  When the Angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds and they were encompassed by the glory of the Lord, the scripture says "they were terribly frightened."

 Have we lost a sense of fear of God? Have we become so familiar with God that we've lost the sense of awe we should have when His name is mentioned? Have we become so pragmatic and programmed that we've drifted away from the sense of reverence that used to accompany any worship service?

 John Franklin, Prayer/Discipleship Specialist for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention recently said, "Some say become relevant, be contextual, nontraditional, change the way we do church. These things may be needed, but they are not enough. We must rediscover the 'Fear of God.'"

 Christmas is a wonderful opportunity to rediscover the "fear of God." This holy fear is woven throughout the Christmas story. When the angel of the Lord appeared to Zacharias, the scripture says, "fear gripped him." (Luke 1:12). And the angel told Mary to "fear not." (Luke 1:30)

 Why did they have this holy fear? Well on one level, most of us would be a tad frightened if an angel appeared to us, wouldn't we? But on another level, this fear resulted from one thing: exposure to the glory of God. Verse 9 says, "and the glory of the Lord shone around them;"

 Wherever God's glory is, there is a holy fear.
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