There were shepherds staying in the fields nearby [outside Bethlehem, where Jesus was born], guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.”
Sigh. We only have to hear the word and waves of guilt and dread begin to surge…
But wait! Let’s stop them before they actually crash down on us and try something different today: let’s focus on what we can do, rather than what we can’t.
So here’s something simple: who do you know who you would love to see discover Jesus for themselves? Pause. Think. Ask God – ‘Who shall I pray for? Who do you have in mind to take a next step towards you?’ At work, in your neighbourhood, maybe even your own home. Now ask yourself – What’s my relationship with them? What do they believe about God? What would a next step look like for them? Keep it simple. Just start praying.
There are valid challenges in the evangelistic task, of course, and I hope you’ll find the next few weeks helpful as we look at Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth and what it can show us about being good news bearers. But we should begin with hope, not fear. And Luke has something to say about that too. A little refrain pops up three times in Luke 1-2 and is said to several of the characters: “Don’t be afraid.”
The angel Gabriel says it first to Zechariah, then to Mary, then a host of angels say it to the shepherds. And it goes beyond simply calming down the listeners in the face of the understandably frightening experience of an angelic messenger. It’s a reassurance that they don’t need to be afraid of what lies ahead, of the tasks they are being called on to perform, the messages they will go on to share.
Why? Because it was all stuff they were capable of doing. The shepherds were encouraged to find the holy child and pass on what they experienced; Mary was asked to carry and give birth to a baby; Zechariah to protect and guide a son who would prepare thousands of hearts for Jesus’ coming. They were being asked, quite simply, to play their part in introducing the Message to the world.
And it’s the same for us. Because God is the evangelist here. It’s his message we’re bringing. We’re simply asked to join with him, to execute a small task, and another, and another, which together form a bigger picture of grace and salvation that God is ultimately in charge of – not us.
So don’t overthink it, don’t let the guilt and dread get a hold. We have to start somewhere. So let’s start today.
Beth Gaukroger is LICC’s Director of Communications and she will be taking us through our 5-week ‘Messengers of the gospel’ series, where we look at what Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth has to tell us about being bearers of the good news this Christmas and beyond.
VIDEOS: watch our top tips for being a messenger of the gospel at work, in your community and through your Christmas shopping. Watch now >>
INTERVIEWS: in our ‘Messengers in context’ series we chat with people like comedian Milton Jones, actor David Oyelowo, MP David Burrowes and Bishop Rachel Treweek about how they share faith in their everyday contexts. Read now >>