By Glen Skaggs
Luke 1:13-14 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechari′ah,… you will have joy and gladness,…”
Luke 1:28-30 And he [Gabriel] came to her and said, “Hail, O favored one,…” And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God…”
Luke 2:10 And the angel said to them [the shepherds], “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy …” (RSV)
These three passages in the story about the birth of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke each contain the word “afraid” but only the first and last contain the word “joy.”
Zechari′ah was doing his duty as a priest in the Temple. He probably was not thinking about why he and Elizabeth didn’t have any children, though he probably had prayed about it in the past. Suddenly an angel tells him his wife will have a child. He was incredulous, but quickly believed when the angel told Zechari′ah who he was. Zechari′ah was left speechless but had joy and gladness.
While the passage related to Mary doesn’t have the word “joy”, it does use the word “hail.” Some translators think a better word is “Rejoice” with its connection to the term “favored one” (TDNT, vol. 9, p. 367, line 7). This form of greeting is used only in connection with divine grace (TDNT, vol. 9, p. 393, line 11). This is the kind of joy that continued for Mary during the ministry of Jesus (IDB, 1962, vol. K-Q, p. 292).
Shepherds had a hard life because they had to work out in the fields and into the night. They watched over their flocks so they would not be stolen or marauded. They were “socially despised and economical depressed” (BBC, vol. 9, p.29). The shepherds provide a model for the ministry of Jesus.
Each of these passages provides a way to interpret or to receive and be blessed by joy. You must be diligent in the duties of your faith, expectant that there will be a good outcome, and intentional in your efforts.
Gracious Lord, we thank you for your steadfastness of always being there for us and the grace and care you provide us. Amen