I’m sure you’ve seen and heard the recent proclamations. Retailers’ shelves have overflowed for weeks with wrapping paper, wreaths, and wind-up reindeer. Carols mingle with Christmas pop classics on the radio and in the grocery store. Advertisements abound online, on TV, and in magazines and newspapers. The cultural celebration of Christmas has begun!
There’s another Christmas, of course—the reason for Christmas, the birth of Christ—and angels announced the wonderful event. Have you ever seen an angel or talked with one? Their first words are often, “Don’t be afraid!”
The angel Gabriel proclaimed to Mary, “Don’t be afraid!” and announced that despite her virgin status, she would soon bring God’s Son into the world. An angel visited Joseph in a dream. “Don’t be afraid!” the angel proclaimed and told Joseph that Mary’s pregnancy was indeed according to God’s plan.
Then there were those sleepy, smelly shepherds watching their flocks by night. An angel’s sudden presence terrified them. “Don’t be afraid!” the angel proclaimed (Luke 2:10). “The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!” (v. 11).* And a whole host of angels—the armies of Heaven—joined in the joyful announcement, “praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased’” (2:13, 14).
Another proclamation of the Savior began years later and continues today whenever the church gathers for Communion. Picture yourself with other believers in a small house in Corinth. Someone is reading aloud a letter from the apostle Paul. One of the topics in the letter is the Lord’s Supper. As you listen, you hear this sentence: “For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord’s death until he comes again” (1 Corinthians 11:26).
Angels received the privilege of announcing the birth of Jesus, but God gave the church the task of announcing to the world Jesus’ sacrificial death to pay for sin.
My sin. Your sin. The sin of others who don’t know him yet.
Guilt completely, utterly gone.
Peace for those who please God by their faith in Jesus!
Strangely, not everyone welcomes this announcement. Sometimes there’s danger in proclaiming it. But that is our task and our joyful proclamation as we gather here today.
*Scripture quotations are from the New Living Translation.
Diane Stortz is a freelance editor and the author of the best-selling Bible storybook The Sweetest Story Bible (Zonderkidz). She blogs about the Bible at www.abibleplace.blogspot.com.