“So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’” – Hebrews 13:6
Four times in the larger Christmas story messengers from God have one primary recommendation to their trembling audience: do not fear!
Zechariah, John the Baptist’s father; Mary, the mother of Jesus; Joseph, betrothed to Mary; and a group of poor shepherds all are told in no uncertain terms to not be afraid. Did they have reason to be afraid? Absolutely! The true reality of the spiritual world burst upon them in a manner not at all common to anything before in their life.
Zechariah is met by an Angel of the Lord suddenly standing right in front of him, beside the altar in the Holy of Holies where he was burning incense to God. This had never happened before in his life. The Angel delivered a message of which Zechariah’s unbelieving response caused him to be rendered mute until his son’s birth months later. All a huge shock to his psyche. This Angel had certainly gotten his focused attention and brought hours of thoughtful meditation to the rest of his life.
Young Mary, when all by herself one day, is suddenly greeted by the Angel Gabriel standing right before her. The text tells us Mary was frightened exactly how you would be; it tells you simply, she was “greatly troubled!” And on top of his mysterious appearance, he delivered an earth-shaking announcement to her, changing her life for eternity.! She was still a virgin who was abruptly told she would be impregnated by the Spirit of God. She would be with child without ever knowing a man. Mary would soon be the mother of her Lord. Consider such happening to you!
Joseph, when embarrassed and destroyed by Mary’s bombshell announcement of being pregnant by someone other than him, had a timely, dramatic dream. But it was no ordinary dream and Joseph knew it. This dream presented an Angel who drove fear into his very spirit. Yet, he was warned to not be afraid. And he obeyed the message he received taking Mary honorably as his wife; nor was he anymore afraid of what other people thought.
A group of shepherds sitting beside a campfire on a Bethlehem hillside, were transfixed with fear as an Angel of the Lord stood before them and the “glory of the Lord shone around them.” Whatever shocking experience that presented their eyes and emotions, it caused their bodies to shake with “great fear.” If they had been older, they would certainly have suffered heart attacks. And then the sky above them was filled, one horizon to the other, with a massive choir of angels singing in incredibly beautiful
voices, “Gloria in Excelsis Deo!” You cannot even imagine such a glorious sight and sound. Maybe they will do an encore for us in heaven.
You might deflect that you are not Zechariah, Mary, Joseph, or those shepherds; so how does this really apply to you? Your Bible, however, is replete with your Lord, Himself, addressing you personally with this declaration, “Do not fear!” He says in no uncertain terms, “Do not be afraid! I am with you! I will strengthen you, help you, and uphold you.” He says with finality, “I will save you!”
This wider Christmas story solidifies the promise of the Lord to your heart. When he says these words to you through His Holy Spirit do you still really fear? Yes, you do. You fear especially the unknown. What is my “ordained day?” What will tomorrow bring? Will I or my loved ones escape pain?
This is a time for trust. If you can trust anything at all, you can trust your God! Your good Shepherd is with you. If you cannot trust in Him, I truly fear for you. When Jesus says to eschew anxiety and let tomorrow take care of itself, you can rest in the solid truth that your present and future is in God’s sure hands!
“I fear no foe with thee at hand to bless, ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness. Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory? I triumph still if thou abide with me.”
(4th verse of Henry Francis Lyte’s hymn, “Abide With Me,” 1847)
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