Christian Living

Spiritual Life

Christmas and Our Fears

Someone told C. S. Lewis the story of a woman who, at Christmas, saw a nativity scene in front of a church. She said, “Oh, Lord! They bring religion into everything. Look, they’re dragging it even into Christmas now.”

Among all the things I love about Christmas is the music. What a thrill to walk through a mall and hear “Joy to the World, the Lord has come” played over the public speaker system. My personal favorite Christmas carol is O Little Town of Bethlehem. The line that intrigues me is, “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” That line struck me with the truth that Christmas deals with our fears.

That first Christmas was when God revealed His Son to the world. Making up the drama of that event was the convergence of characters who represented the hopes and fears of all humanity. There, in the tiny village of Bethlehem, the hopes and fears of all the years met in a Baby lying in a manger.

I had not often associated Christmas with fear, but it’s one of the major issues we face when we first encounter God. There is the fear of the unfamiliar. Joseph, the husband of Mary, had that kind of fear. An angel appeared to him in a dream with an important message. Matthew described the encounter:

“Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘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.’” (Matthew 1:19-20)

The words, “Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife” are very important. Apparently, Joseph had experienced fear about what was happening. And why not? Joseph didn’t know what was going on. No one had ever faced this kind of dilemma before. His fiancée was pregnant and had told him a story he found hard to believe. She had told him that she was pregnant, but was still a virgin. That was unprecedented. When the angel appeared to him and said, “Do not be afraid,” the angel touched his main problem. It’s our problem, too. We are afraid of the unfamiliar. The things we don’t understand make us nervous. When God is at work and we don’t know what He’s doing, we can feel a degree of alarm.

The angel’s word to Joseph was, “Don’t be afraid.” Don’t fear for your reputation, don’t be afraid of what you don’t understand. God is in this!” Knowing that God is up to something is an effective antidote to fear.

That wasn’t the only kind of fear that was met that Christmas night in Bethlehem. There was the fear that accompanied an unexpected encounter with God:

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.” (Luke 2:8-9)

To Joseph, to the shepherds and to each one of us the Christmas message is the same. Don’t be afraid! Christmas is God’s intervention in our lives to bring joy, not fear. The Baby of Bethlehem is still fulfilling the angels’ announcement:

“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11)

Our fears were met that night and we can say a resounding, “Thank God!”

Wally Odum © 2011, printed with permission

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