Before these words were spoken, Caesar Augustus was known as “the Savior” for all people and praised by poets, historians and politicians for bringing great peace and order after years of war and chaos. To counter this claim with an assertion of another Savior, proclaimed by a divine messenger, was treasonous, if not an impossible statement to believe by any Roman citizen. Luke looks to Bethlehem, the city of King David, not Caesar’s city of Rome, for this Savior’s origins. And although Caesar was lauded as the bringer of peace to many, others were still traumatized from censuses, poverty from excessive taxes, ongoing revolts and revolutions. No wonder the shepherds were terrified.
Imagine being told that the Messiah, this Savior you had heard about and longed for through generations of your Judaic upbringing had finally arrived in such an atmosphere. Your hopes and dreams at such an unsettled and fearful time have been answered by this supernatural proclamation by (of all things) an angel! “Good tidings of great joy” is the divine message for all people. What would that feel like?
Fear is a powerful emotion, which often overrides the true Christmas message and challenges Christian faith on a daily basis, at least for this Christian. But Christ, our Savior, is God’s assurance of hope to us in the midst of a world that often seems to thrive on fear.
Lord, help us to respond and not react, and to remember that only you are our Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
Louise B. Mason