Joy to the world. Peace on earth. Good will to all. Festive times with family and friends and enjoying good food. These are the ideals we love to celebrate as we remember Christ’s birth. But these ideals were far from reality for those who lived the Christmas story.
As I was reading the familiar passages portraying the wonder of the Christmas story there was a repeated phrase that stood out like yellow highlighter on a white page: “Do NOT be afraid!”
Really? The Christmas story and fear? That’s not the picture we want to get us in “The Christmas Spirit!”
Fear was the prevailing reality, however, when Christ entered our time and space. Just like for many today–even at Christmas time!
Fears and worries about whether we’ll finish our “to-do” lists in time to enjoy some down time during the holidays. Fears about ending the budget year in the black. Fears about a Trump presidency. Fears about whether our personal or professional goals and strategies for 2017 will be successful.
Fears about ailing health, not being able to maintain the pace we’ve been keeping, whether or not our kids will make it or our marriage will survive are all real and plague many of us–even at Christmas time!
My dear friends, to be flawed human beings in a less than perfect world marred by sin, is to know fear. Fear is riddled throughout the Christmas story. But so is hope. The certainty that Jesus came to redeem us, not only from our sin, but also our fears!
Let’s consider three fears we may face (as illustrated in some central characters of the Christmas story) and how we can find freedom from them.
Defamed Reputations & Relationships
Imagine what it must have been like for Joseph. As he looked out at the horizon of his future, a bright and joyous life awaited him with Mary, his bride to be. That was all he could envision.
Then WHAM! Mary turns up pregnant, totally annihilating the Norman Rockwell picture he had painted in his mind. Because of his noble character, Matthew’s gospel tells us of Joseph’s concern to guard Mary’s reputation by divorcing her quietly, not wanting to expose her disgrace publicly.
But what about Joseph’s reputation and the wounds that must have been inflicted on his heart when he received the scandalous news that his betrothed had betrayed him? How did he respond? With fear. How do we know? Consider the following:
“…an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid, to take Mary as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.'” ~ Matthew 1:20 (NIV)
Knowing the Holy Spirit was the cause of Mary’s pregnancy was a game changer for Joseph. What a comfort for those of us who have invited the Christ of Christmas to be the Forgiver of our sins and the Leader of our lives! The following promise is ours to claim to combat our fears.
“For you did not receive a Spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship, and by Him we cry, ‘Abba, Father'”. ~Romans 8:15 (NIV)
There may be times this Christmas, or in 2017, when we are called to a step of obedience that could cause damage to our personal or professional reputations. Knowing…
- our identity as sons and daughters of God can never be taken away from us,
- that God is the most important person we need to please,
- and that the Spirit will intercede for us (Romans 8:26) and empower our obedience
…eliminates all fear!
“Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the most high.” ~ Luke 1:32 (NIV)
What a privilege to be the mother of the Savior of the world! Pretty amazing right? Yet, a privilege that would come with great cost and horrific fear.
Mary’s reputation would have been tarnished by suspicion. “The Holy Spirit got you pregnant! Yeh, right! I wish we could say we’ve heard that one before!”
While experiencing the height of discomfort in the final stages of her pregnancy, a required census called for her and Joseph to make an arduous trek to Bethlehem. Who wouldn’t have been fearful or anxious in such a circumstance?
A mother’s worst, most horrific fear, however, would have been having to witness the son she had raised being beaten mercilessly, impaled to a wooden cross, and dying with the weight of our sins upon Himself.
How did she deal with such fear? Through surrender.
“I am the Lord’s servant…May it be to me as you have said.” ~ Luke 1:38 (NIV)
I can’t tell you the number of times fear has gripped me and held me paralyzed, only to be released through such a prayer of surrender:
“I am Your servant Lord. Be it unto me as you have said and willed before the foundation of the world regardless of what may come. You are my Lord and my Savior.”
Have you ever been going about your daily business and been startled by an event that invoked such fear that you could hardly breathe?
Zechariah and the Shepherds knew that kind of fear. Zechariah was going about performing the annual sacrifices of a priest in the temple when he suddenly saw an angel before him.
“…Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son…” ~ Luke 1:13
So too were the shepherds going about their normal business watching sheep when,
“…the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today…a Savior has been born to you: He is Christ the Lord.'” ~ Luke 2:11 (NIV)
Sometimes when we are surprised by a disturbing setback or an unexplainable event, God is stirring a glorious, mysterious turn of events we could never think possible: an answer to prayer, a breakthrough we’ve been longing for, or even transforming the mundane aspects of our work into more meaningful worship.
The Savior of the world has been born “to” you and “for” you. This we must believe. And this means that Jesus will transform every disturbing surprise of life, sooner or later, and will redeem it for our good and His glory!
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests.” ~ Luke 2:14 (NIV)
- What is a fear you would like to dash and prance on this Christmas, or as you embark upon a new year for the Glory of our God?
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