God works in surprising ways.

God breaks into the world with amazing love in ways we never would have imagined or expected.

God might surprise you too, if you open your heart with anticipation.

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Nearby shepherds were living in the fields, guarding their sheep at night. The Lord’s angel stood before them, the Lord’s glory shone around them, and they were terrified.

The angel said, “Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people. Your savior is born today in David’s city. He is Christ the Lord. This is a sign for you: you will find a newborn baby wrapped snugly and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great assembly of the heavenly forces was with the angel praising God. They said, “Glory to God in heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors.”

Luke 2:8-14

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Shepherds were social outcasts – a very unlikely group to get this dramatic birth-announcement. They were rightly terrified when the night sky lit up, but perhaps they feared more than the angel. What will happen when these lowly shepherds report this amazing night vision? Do they worry that people will think they are crazy or that they’ve been smoking something in the fields? Will they lose their jobs?

What I love about this part of the story is that God understands. The very first words the angel speaks are, “Do not be afraid.” These are also the first words that the risen Jesus speaks to his terrified disciples. In Luke, the angel continues: “I am bringing you good news of great joy,” and then an assignment – a mission: go find the child wrapped in strips of cloth, lying in a feeding trough.

Can the shepherds set aside their fear; will they go and find the Christ child? Can we?

Tracy Hartman

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God, I confess that sometimes following you is terrifying, even when you tell me not to be afraid. Will my friends think I’m crazy when I tell them what I have experienced? Will I become a social outcast? When my fears creep in, remind me of the words of Jesus and the angel: “Do not be afraid.” Thank you for understanding and for reminding me that you bring good news and joy! Amen.

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Now go into the world with hope and anticipation, with your heart wide open to God’s ongoing work in the world.

Tracy Hartman

Tracy Hartman mostly recently served on the faculty of Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. She enjoys coaching clergy and serving as an intentional interim pastor. She and her husband Jay live in Richmond, VA.

Sing We Now

Nathan Hanson

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