The Christmas Story: Fear Not
December 12, 2016
Since I was a child, it was a family tradition on Christmas Eve to read from the book of Luke, Chapters 1-2. We four siblings would take turns reading out loud then retire for the night. I have continued that tradition in my own family, and well I remember the Christmas my youngest decided to take his turn. He was a new reader and was clearly nervous as he struggled with some of the larger words. I found myself holding my breath while he worked through the passages, but with the unflappable faith of a child, he managed to do it. Ah yes, the Christmas story. A story of faith - but oh, so much more.
It is actually a prescription for conquering fear.
In today’s world, we have an unhealthy dose of fear - we are fearful of thoughts, words, and choices. We are fearful of social unrest; we are fearful of each other…because fear is a jackhammer in the hands of Satan…and it is his desire to pulverize the people - especially believers with it… Fear floats freely in the wind.
But there is nothing new under the sun and just like today, Israel 2000 years ago experienced great social unrest. Many lived under the pressure of a despotic government, suppression of faith, financial duress, and difficult living conditions. Then, like now - people had a deep fear of what was to come next.
He says, Do Not Fear…He has a plan and a purpose, if we can just learn to trust Him.
Think back to the day when Zechariah, a priest, a man of God serving in the temple was told by the angel Gabriel he and his wife, Elizabeth were going to have a son. “Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard.” (Luke 1:11-14).
Zechariah’s fervent prayer to have a son was about to be answered…and bonus, this son was going to be so special that he would be used to prepare the way of the Lord. But Zechariah’s long-standing fear of childlessness caused him to doubt. His lack of trust in God resulted in his lack of voice. With or without his trust, God’s miracle still happened and like Zechariah, we too can learn to trust God’s voice instead of the voice inside our head.
When the angel Gabriel told Mary she was to be a teen mom, she was “greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. (Luke 1:29-30).
She was afraid of an angel of God…and rightly so. However, scripture does not tell us that she was worried about her reputation, what her friends would think or even how she would explain this to her fiancé. Nope, her initial lack of belief came from the realities of biology, “how can this be, since I am a virgin…” Personally, I find her reaction inspiring - never mind that she was being visited by an angel - that wasn't so hard to believe - but the practicality of a pregnant virgin - well now, there was the issue. Once Gabriel explained, she quickly came to her “aha moment” and trusted the Lord - “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:38)..and we learn because Mary did not fear and she was chosen as the vessel of God’s miracle.
Then there was Joseph - a good man who had lived his life in accordance with Jewish laws and traditions. He just wanted to do the right thing - you know - find a girl, settle down, get married. Then comes along this Mary - who he thought was pure - a maiden in all sense of the word - and she turns up pregnant - and it wasn't his! Fear? You know he felt fear…his life was a wreck….what now? It was his right to have her stoned - the law required it - the mob likely wanted it. Can’t you just see Satan sitting back laughing with glee at this fools errand God was on? Laughing at Joseph’s predicament?
But God whispered to Joseph, “Do Not Fear…this is part of the plan…”
So God sent Joseph His assurance in a dream, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,[c] because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:18-24) Satan’s plan thwarted, fear abandoned, Joseph’s faith restored and another miracle within a miracle, and so we learn in the worst of circumstances, we can trust the Lord.
These are just three of the examples of the story of Christ’s birth where fear could have reigned. Whether it was a young couple who faced the hardship of travel to Bethlehem during a late-term pregnancy, to shepherds who feared the Angel of the Lord who appeared to them, to the fear of the Magi not returning to Herod, to the warnings of the Angel to Mary and Joseph to escape with baby Jesus to Egypt…
We must remember fear is not of God. It is of Satan who desires to thwart God’s plan and purpose, especially for His children. The birth of Jesus Christ is the ultimate prescription for fear and Jesus is God’s greatest medicine for sin. Salvation for mankind was and is the ultimate gift - at Christmas and in all seasons. Throughout the Bible we learn that our Lord is a Lord of miracles and we are not to fear or have a lack of trust, because all of it, even the tough times, even in the uncertainty of the 21st century (or the 1st century) God’s plan is greater than our fears.
So whether in this season, or the days to come, remember that the perfect love of God casts out fear. The message of the Angel of the Lord is for every day - not just Christmas… “Fear not, for I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be unto all people. For unto you is born this day … a SAVIOR which is Christ the LORD! (Luke 2:9-11)
Father God, thank you that in Jesus you are presenting your perfect purpose and plan for Salvation to all who believe. please Lord, give me the unflappable faith of a child, your child to shun fear and trust you in all things, in all times. Amen and amen.