December 23, 2016 - Fear of God

Then fear came upon all their neighbors,
and all these matters were discussed
throughout the hill country of Judea.
All who heard these things took them to heart, saying,
“What, then, will this child be?
For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.

Luke 1:57-66

Why were Elizabeth and Zechariah’s neighbors struck with fear when the infant John the Baptist was born?

I suspect it was a fear akin to Casasdastrapobia, or fear of falling into the vastness of the night sky.   Popular-culture Christianity focuses on the approachability of Jesus.  C.S. Lewis once criticized a relative who talked about approaching God as though he would slap God on the back and invite him for a beer.   Martin Buber once compared encountering God to dangling over an abyss.

God is sovereign and vast; the Alpha and the Omega; He who set the world on its foundations.  At the approach of the divine, fear and trembling is the appropriate response, not because we anticipate anything bad to happen but because we have a sense of our smallness and the asymmetry of the relationship - our ‘creatureliness’ as Rudolf Otto would have called it.

Tomorrow night, we celebrate Christmas.  God becomes incarnate and enters the world.  How will our hearts respond?