Terrifying Encounters

Life Notes—December 10, 2009 

“In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.  Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.”  Luke 2:8-9 

One of the counterintuitive directives of the Bible is to fear the Lord.  But it is difficult to be afraid of the God who created and loves me and looks out for my best interests.  However, the Hebrew word for fear can also be translated as awe.  Holding God in awe makes more intuitive sense.  Holding someone or something in awe respects the mystery, or unknowability, of their/its confounding nature.  Awe is the natural reaction bestowed on that which is immensely greater or more powerful than anything we know.  

Even so, fear and awe are closely related. That which I hold in awe could, presumably, squelch me like a bug if it so desired (or if it wasn’t paying attention!).  So, if I am uncomfortable saying I fear God, it is only because I trust God’s motives regarding me.  However, I also reluctantly understand God’s love can lead me into fearful situations. In the Narnia series of books by C.S. Lewis the character representing Jesus is an untamed lion named Aslan.  The stories are peppered with instances where Aslan both terrifies with his fierceness and might, and comforts with his compassion and wisdom.  Aslan’s goodness is a given, but no one is ever completely comfortable in his presence.  There is a simultaneous sense of being drawn to, yet distant from.  Awesome, yet awkward. 

One night in the fields near Bethlehem a group of shepherds were fulfilling their routine duty of guarding sheep.  These shepherds were not wimps.  They had to fend off all manner of vicious predators seeking a lamb chop snack.  But this group of tough, hardened shepherds saw an angel of the Lord and they were terrified.  Not just uncomfortable; not a little scared.  They were terrified! 

Has God’s entry into our lives lost its terror?  As we prepare for Emmanuel, God with us, has the season become so commonplace as to have lost its awe?  If so, we need to reflect on the true nature of the season: incomprehensible love, redemption, new birth, grace.  These are not minor miracles.  These are gifts from a power beyond comprehension.  A power that can only be held in awe…and worshipped.  Terror is a reasonable option. 

This is the third Sunday of Advent, the Sunday of Shepherds and Joy.  Tom will be preaching from Luke 2:6-16.  His sermon title is “Living in Joy.”  Life Worship in Brady Hall begins at 10:45.  Traditional worship in the sanctuary is at 8:30 and 11:00.  Contemporary worship at the west campus begins at 9:30.   

Come home to worship this Sunday!  Experience the awe with us.

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator 

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