The angel perceived the shepherds’ fear when he appeared to them, telling them to “fear not.” The astonishing glory of God, which radiated from the unexpected heavenly messenger, had indeed struck fear in their hearts. But the news the angel had come to share was nothing to be afraid of. He had come to announce a miracle, to bring the ultimate good news, to tell them that the redemption of mankind literally had commenced. No other messenger before or since has brought happier greetings. The Only Begotten of the Father was beginning His mortal sojourn: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” These were indeed good tidings of great joy.
We each face moments in our lives when the great joy that the angel promised can seem elusive and distant. All of us are subject to the frailties and hardships of life—illness, failure, problems, disappointment, and, in the end, death. While many people are blessed to live in physical safety, others today do not. Many face great difficulty meeting the demands of life and the physical and emotional toll it can bring.
And yet, despite life’s hardships, the message of the Lord to each of us is the same today as it was to the shepherds keeping watch two thousand years ago: “Fear not.” Perhaps the angel’s injunction to fear not has more transcendent relevance to us today than it did in calming the shepherds’ fear that first Christmas night. Could he also have meant for us to understand that because of the Savior, fear will never triumph? to reinforce that ultimate fear is never justified? to remind us that no earthly problem need be lasting, that none of us is beyond redeeming?
The sweetest gift given at Christmas will always be the one our Savior Himself gave us: His perfect peace.