One of the benefits of being a country parson is living far away from the glowing lights that disrupt seeing the beauty of the night sky. I mean, my neighborhood is full of street lights, but it isn’t too far a drive to be in the middle of no where with only the Milky Way and the Moon shining brightly overhead. It is a similar scene that the shepherds find themselves in. Night after night they watch over their flocks in the darkness with only the moon and the stars to offer light in the darkness.
It is no wonder then, that they are terrified, literally fearing a mega fear, when one evening the darkness of the night turned into the brightness of the day. Luke tells us that “the glory of the Lord shone around them,” or as the New Living Translation puts it, “the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them.”
Scriptures tells us, on more than one occasion, that one of the promises of God’s future reign is that the sun and moon will no longer be necessary. Instead of outside sources of light, it is the glory of the Lord that will help us to see. It is through the radiance of God that we will one day be able to see the world as God intended it to be. The shepherds got a glimpse of that world, and understandably, were filled with fear. Forty days later, Simeon will hold the baby Jesus and announce, with great joy, that the light to enlighten the nations had come.
The world is, of course, still filled with darkness, but the gift of Christmas, at least one them, is that the light of the world is shining in the darkness. Even when it seems totally dark, and lately it has sort of felt that way what with ISIS, mass shootings, and the sinking level of political discourse, there is a light shining in the darkness: a savior who is Christ the Lord.