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And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.’

Here in Luke 2:10, right in the middle of probably the most universally recognizable story in all of Scripture, we find this little verse about joy. This is the angel who appeared to the shepherds, sharing the amazing news that a Savior has been born. Good news of great joy is being shared. But first the angel says, “Fear not.”

It had to be terrifying, to see the sky filled with these heavenly messengers  What would it have been like for those shepherds, minding their own business? They would have naturally been startled, at the very least. But fear? These are men who contend with the roughest elements of nature on a daily basis. We know from the tales of David that fighting off wild animals is part of the job description. And any weather conditions, from heat to cold to rain and even more – these were part of the job too. So why would the shepherds be afraid?

I think the first response to anything new is fear. It’s a natural, protective instinct that we have. New can be good, but until we know for sure, we are afraid. The shepherds had their routine, moving the sheep from place to place as needed, drawing water or pausing to eat a meal, sleeping in shifts. They knew the rhythms of the animals and the seasons, knew the warning signs of danger, knew how to content with what their ordinary lives encountered.

But on this night, everything was different. Were the words of the angel also for the sheep? I can picture the animals cowering or running in terror. Did the glorious song of the angelic choir soothe them? Certainly the shepherds would not have been able to hurry off if the flock was in chaos. The same God who could touch the hearts of the roughest of men is also the God who can calm the flocks. He is our shepherd, as well as theirs, and He cares for all of His creation.

I can’t help but think about today being Earth Day, not that I am particularly a tree-hugger. But I do appreciate the call God placed on the first humans to care for creation. These shepherds knew that well, long before there was any such thing as “Earth Day.”

Lord, help us all to be good stewards the world you have given us and the creatures you have placed into our care. Give us the peace that you gave to the shepherds and sheep that night of Your birth, knowing that we can trust You to keep us safe. We do not have to fear the unknown, because You already know it.