Dinosaurs and Angels: The Shepherds and Fear.Posted: December 30, 2013
So this is a video from a Japanese prank show, but I don’t think you’ll need to understand the language to understand what is happening.
The thing I love about this video is that even though, cognitively, this guy knows dinosaurs went extinct millions of years ago, and the chances that somehow a T Rex made it to today, and happens to be in Japan in an office building are not great, in the face of the terror of a Rogue Dinosaur in an office building chasing him down: all logic, all rationality, completely disappears. That initial impression was enough to scare the daylights out of that guy.
He’s scared because this was unexpected, amazing. Threatening. Potentially powerful and dangerous. Something he had never seen before. And something that was coming straight for him.
We’re often scared of things we’ve never seen before.
I, for example, as a five year old was absolutely terrified of my aunt and uncle’s wall-mounted deer-head Bucky. The only way I would be in the same room as Bucky was if someone put a sheet over him. Bucky couldn’t do anything to me, but there was just something so strange, so imposing about him, this dead deer bust, with these huge antlers, and that cold, black stare. I’d never seen anything like it before, and I just couldn’t take it. And so Bucky got covered up. Hidden. The fear was avoided at all costs.
And this is how most of us structure our lives. We think “fear is bad,” or at least, uncontrolled fear is bad. We’ll pay money to be scared by movies, haunted houses, and amusement parks, but then we turn around and we lie to our kids and to ourselves, thinking we can decide when and where we are afraid.
We tell ourselves there’s nothing real that we need to be afraid of in this world because we want to control fear, decide what we would like to scare us and how. Those other fears, the real fears, those questions and uncertainties, those threats and thoughts that keep us up at night, those are the things we try to control.
There’s an Emily Dickinson quote: “To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else.” And it would seem we’ve distanced ourselves from those startling aspects of life. We were made to fear something. We should fear something.
But what? Are we supposed to be afraid of everything? Nothing? What should we fear? And then, what do we do about this fear? Hide? Defeat it? What do we do in the face of fear?
When the angels appear to the shepherds in that field on the night Jesus was born, those shepherds had to deal with these big questions.
It’s not like these are meek, timid men. But when those angels appear to them, they are terrified. I like how the King James version says these shepherds were “sore afraid.” They were so afraid, it hurt. This was not routine, this was not normal, this was not a common human experience. This was terrifying.
But the angel says: Do not be afraid! This angel gives them marching orders; he sends them off on a mission. And even more angels join in, worshipping God, making the whole event even more surreal and overwhelming than it was before. “Glory to God in the Highest! Peace on Earth! Good will to men!”
And then, they’re gone.
Most of us are pretty familiar with this story, but let’s think about this: what would you have done in this situation? These men were sore afraid. They just saw the most terrifying, awesome thing they have ever seen in their entire lives. They saw a glimpse of God and his greatness with their own eyes, and it brought them to their knees.
That is life-altering stuff.
They could have been paralyzed by fear. They could have stayed put, hid away from this fear, pretended it didn’t happen, or tried to forget. They could have run away, avoided this frightening scary thing at any cost. They could have turned back to their sheep, shaken, but happy the ordeal was over.
But they don’t. They listen, and they go. They go and they see. They go to Bethlehem, and they see Jesus.
They had reason to be afraid. They were supposed to be afraid. God is something to be afraid of. But God also tells them: “Do not be afraid!” And they aren’t. Their fear becomes reverence, awe, and adoration. They are the first people besides Mary and Joseph to see the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ.
Fear can be good.
The shepherds’ fear becomes the thing that changes their lives forever. They know God had something much bigger for them than their ordinary, everyday lives, their usual routine, the things they were familiar with. And they were changed forever.
Yet how often do we fear God, and then allow this fear to stop us from embracing Him? How often to we avoid Him because of who he is, and what he represents? To paraphrase CS Lewis, like Aslan the lion, God is not “safe.” He is good, but not safe. How often does our fear of God stop us from following Him?
We would like to control how much of God we see. Like covering a scary deer-head with a sheet, we’d like to cover God up. Not see Him too much. Have a non-committal relationship. A vague sense of the guy upstairs. Out there, somewhere, but distant, remote, and safe.
How often do we fall back on the usual, the routine, and safe and secure things of life, like a steady paycheck, a 40 hour workweek, a predictable job, routine relationships, sports schedules and played-out sitcom shows with laugh tracks, happy hour and too much to drink, new and shiny presents for ourselves, because we think these things are the best life has to offer?
We avoid the scariness of God, pad ourselves with the things that comfort us, and ignore the scariest, most frightening thing of all: A life apart from God.
God offers us so much more. He has revealed himself in all of his power and glory through his Son Jesus Christ. He delivers us from fear and death. But we have to listen to Him. Even if it scares us, even if we’re sore afraid. We listen, and then, like the shepherds all we have to do is say: “Let’s go. Let’s go and see this thing God has done for us.”