Christmas and Fear
Undoubtedly one of the most heard word these days is “fear.” Most Americans live with fear. In the Christmas story we are told on 4 separate occasions that when God confronted those who were afraid, He said they should not fear. The reasons they did not need fear are the same reasons God would say to us today, “Don’t fear.” Put them all together:
- We have a God who hears our prayers.
- We have an all-powerful God who works miracles to accomplish His will for us.
- We have a God who has a perfect plan for us and knows our concerns about that plan.
- We have a God who knows when we are uncertain about God’s love for us and His commitment to keep the promise found in Jeremiah 29:11.
The first “do not be afraid” was spoken to Zechariah. Read Luke 1:13. Note the connection between the prayer of Zechariah and the assurance that he did not need to fear. Fear comes when we feel we are alone or cannot do anything about our situation. Prayer is not a magic wand that automatically or immediately solves all our problems. Zechariah and Elisabeth had been praying for years for a child. God assured them He is a prayer hearing and prayer answering God who is in complete control. They did not have to be afraid or concerned.
Instead of fear, we have prayer. Prayer reminds us that not only are we not alone but the one who has promised to watch over us is never off duty. Read Psalm 121. We have access to the heavenly throne where there is no uncertainty. Prayer reminds us that our God holds today in His hand and knows all about tomorrow.
We can look ahead to the new year knowing that nothing will come our way that will take our God by surprise. We can be confident that in 2022 His throne room will be open to us 24/7. Via prayer the resources of the God who spoke creation into being and owns the cattle on a thousand hills are available to us.
The second “do not be afraid” was spoken to Mary. Read Luke 1:30. That call to not be afraid was tied to the promise that God was going to perform a miracle, a miracle that Mary could not understand. Fear comes when we forget that we serve a miracle working God.
The angel literally said to Mary, “Don’t be afraid because you have found favor with the all-powerful God who delights in doing for you what you not only cannot do for yourself, but what cannot even imagine being possible.” God would speak to each of us by name and say, “Because you are my child by faith you have found favor with me. I will be sufficient for everything that comes your way in 2022.”
The third “do not be afraid” was spoken to Joseph. Read Matthew 1:20. God literally said to Joseph, “I know nothing that is happening is what you planned for, but it is incredibly better than your plan because it’s my plan.” I can’t even begin to understand how Joseph must have felt when Mary told him she was expecting a baby. He had to have felt betrayed in the worse way. Then God said to him, “Don’t be afraid, I am in total control. Because you are both committed to me, my plan is better.”
One of the characteristics of life is that disappointments will come. They may be disappointments with ourselves, with those close to us, with society in general or whatever. Whenever that happens to us, we tend to worry, largely because there is often little or nothing we can do about it. But in that disappointment and concern, if you are seeking to live for God, He comes to us and says, “It’s OK, I’m in control. You don’t have to fear or be afraid. I’ve always had a perfect plan for you. Nothing takes me by surprise. I can take even your mistakes, if you give them back to me in repentance, and turn them around.”
The final “Do not be afraid” in the Christmas story was spoken to the shepherds in the fields. Read Luke 2:10. An angel delivered a message from God that said, “I love you and am bringing you good news of my care and provision for you.”
The “Do not be afraid” delivered to the shepherds is a powerful and important message for us as we look to 2022. To understand their fear and God’s message of love, we need to see their fear that God had come to judge them.
Remember the way shepherds lived and what they had been told all their lives. Keep in mind that sheep are among the most dependent animals God created. Left alone they will not survive long. Sheep desperately need a shepherd, and they need him 24/7. Because of the work involved, the rich hired others to care for their sheep.
Because they were required to be with the sheep 24/7/365, they were never able to attend religious services, either in a synagogue or in the temple in Jerusalem. Being absent from expected or required worship meant they were viewed as irreligious. It was easy for the rabbis to use them as examples of what one should not be. Self-fulfilling prophecy being what it is, encouraged them to think of themselves as worthless sinners awaiting the judgment God was going to bring.
Then we have the birth of the Savior and God sent a whole host of His angels to announce that birth. The shepherds knew that angels came from God and one of the tasks of angels was to judge sin on behalf of God. All their lives they had been told, repeatedly by everyone, that they were no good sinners. Suddenly a host of angels, appeared to them. Simple conclusion, the judgment everyone said they deserved, had come.
What a message those shepherds heard. The God who could easily have judged them for their failures, announced instead “Do not fear.” Yes, God is awesome and will judge Satan and sinners and they need to fear Him because of that. The rest of the story, however, is that He is also the God who loves us so much that He sent His Son to a manger and in time to a Cross so His Son could bear our guilt and thus our death sentence.
Satan will often whisper in your ear that God does not love you and wants to judge you. The two most common times that Satan will tell us that God does not love us and is going to judge us is after we have sinned and when God has chosen not to answer a prayer when we wanted Him to or in the way we wanted Him to answer.
We all sin often. Almost as soon as we become aware of our sin, Satan will whisper, “Blew it again. God is running out of patience with you.” When Satan suggests that, we need to immediately do 2 things. First, we need to confess it knowing that God is faithful and just to forgive confessed sin. Then we need to hear God say again, “Fear not, I bring you good news. A Savior came to pay for your sins.” That is not a license to go on sinning or to minimize the ugliness of sin, but it encourages us to live in the joy of our salvation.
The second time Satan will seek to discourage us and try to get us to think we are all alone is when we go to God in prayer, and it appears that He is ignoring us because He doesn’t respond as quickly or in the way we want. When Satan tries to discourage us with the lie that God does not care enough about us, the answer is to declare that God loves me so much He sent His Son. We are to declare that God will withhold no good thing from us. Read Jeremiah 29:11. We can enter 2022 knowing that our God will hear our prayers, when necessary and best will work miracles for us, has a much better plan for us in 2022 than we could ever imagine and loves us so much that He desires to give us an unbelievable future, no matter what Satan says.