The Season of Reassurance
The human race is a fearful lot! I doubt that that is really news to you. We see it in action every day. Yesterday was December 21, 2012, the winter equinox and the first day of winter. Some people feared that Friday would be the end of the world, because it was the last day of the Mayan Indians’ 5,125-year cycle. The Mayan calendar has no today! But, here we are!
Closer to home, recent gun violence and fear of gun control has caused a dramatic jump in gun sales. AR-15s are jumping off the shelves in record numbers. Even stranger, fear of violence has cause a jump in sales of another item: armored backpacks for children. Yes! You can send your child to school with a backpack that will stop a round from a .44 magnum handgun. Anne Marie Albano, who is the director of psychiatry at Columbia University’s Anxiety Clinic said yesterday that instead of fear, parents should convey calmness, not anxiety.
“This is not serving to keep children safe,” she said. “This is serving to increase their fear and their suspicion of their peers.” Good luck with that advice, doctor! Calmness and pacifism are much harder for people to muster than fear and distrust.
Well, Christmas is here, and perhaps with it, there is some hope for mankind! I am always amazed, however, when I realize how much we are like the people we read about in the Bible. I have become aware of just how much fear greeted that first Christmas, so long ago.
Angels announced the first Christmas to a number of people in the scriptures. The angels expected their response and they were right! People were afraid! In Luke 1:13, the angel Gabriel came to Zechariah to tell him of John’s arrival and Zechariah was gripped with fear. “Do not be afraid,” the angel said. In Luke 1:20 an angel came to Joseph to tell him of Jesus’ coming. The angel told him, “Do not be afraid.” Similarly, in Luke 1:30 the angel’s announcement to Mary was also prefaced with, “Do not be afraid.”
Perhaps the announcement we are most familiar with is to the shepherds in Luke 2. Let us turn to Luke 2 and read verses 8-15. Luke 2:8-15.
LK 2:8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 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. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
LK 2:13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
LK 2:14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
LK 2:15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
May the Lord add his blessing to the reading of the Word.
In these days of anxiety and fear, it is important to remember that the first statement all the angels made to the people they spoke to was, “Do not be afraid.” The angels stressed that fear was unnecessary because the purpose of their visit (in all these occasions) was to bring goodnews. Their announcement was that the long looked for Messiah had finally arrived. They would find this Messiah in Bethlehem; an innocent child in humble conditions. Their announcement said he was a savior, not just for them but for all the people.
For most Jewish listeners of the day, the first assumption would be that the nation would be saved from the Roman Empire. Many today would tell you that he came so that Christians can go to heaven. Certainly, that is part of the answer. But the word “savior” here means so much more. The word used for “savior” means not just political salvation but “well-being, healing, deliverance and a right relationship with God. It means hope, life and peace. Their message went well beyond “do not be afraid.” It was a message of love and joy. God had set in motion a plan that would save the world from darkness and sin.
You and I can have joy at Christmas instead of fear. God loves you so much that he was willing pour himself into the man Jesus so long ago. Moreover, the man Jesus, born a human child and living the same difficult life as all of us, became the sacrifice of love for you.
John 3:15 says that, “everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” You and I need not live a life of fear!
JN 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
The creator of the universe has given you a gift at Christmas. His gift is that you can be eternally secure and will never have need to fear again. Our Christmas gift, Jesus the Savior, told his disciples in Matthew 10:28-31,
28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
Because of Christmas, we have the joy of salvation and no reason to fear.