“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.” Luke 2:10
I am scared of heights. Apparently, it is quite common. I find my stomach churning and my knees get a little more rickety as I climb a ladder of any height. I think it goes back to falling off a tree when I was a child but no matter the cause it follows me today. I have faced up to
this fear on numerous occasions.
Perhaps the most significant moment of overcoming fear was at a youth summer camp when by some cruel trick of an administrators pen I was destined to lead a group of teenagers on an afternoon of abseiling. As I hung off a wall at what felt like 220 miles up in the air I remember whispering to myself, ‘Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid.’ I was afraid, but somehow I overcame and walked down the wall. Even managing a strange backward roll in the process. Don’t applaud me for my bravery. I am just a mere man.
The phrases ‘Do not be afraid’ and ‘Fear not’ are littered all across the Christmas story. I am sure in part that the angels who speak these comforting words are speaking against the fear that seeing a celestial being must strike into the heart of a person, but it is not their goodness that brings the comfort that they promise, it is their message.
To Joseph he is told he must not fear but marry Mary anyway, she has been faithful.
To Mary she must not fear as she is highly favoured by
The shepherds should not fear as the angelic messenger and his backing band brought them an exclusive on good news and joy for the whole world.
At the centre of the story of Christmas is a promise that we should not be afraid. I think it is no coincidence that the heralds who bring the news that the promised rescue is arriving speak first against fear. The world we live
in is often a fearful place.
The 24 hour news cycle if taken in isolation and at face value would drive us all to barricade ourselves in our
house for fear of being killed by disease, famine or violence. Magazines strike fear into the hearts of women that they are the wrong size, wrong weight, wearing the wrong clothes, with the wrong coloured hair and the wrong shaped face. Men are told to be afraid that their abs are not visible enough and their car is too slow or that women are out to get them. We are told to fear recession, or to fear consumerism.
Fear is marketed with a steady rhythm and the world spins to its beat. Yet out of this clamour speaks
the voice of the Christmas angel, ‘Do not be afraid.
In moments of fear, I have always tried to pluck up my own courage. When faced with the unknown I have relied on myself to gather my bravery and face the moment. Fear has always seemed like an attack on my strength and courage, yet I think that fear is actually an attack on our identity. I think fear distracts us from who we really are.
Fear removes our attention from the God’s love
and puts it on our own weaknesses and failures. Fear amplifies the voice of accusation and dulls our ears to the song of hope sung by Angel choirs. Fear tells us who we were and what we have done, not who we are and what we are becoming. It will silence our song and stop our hands from bringing blessing and kindness and goodness to the world.
As we approach the end of the year, with Christmas carols of good tidings to all people still ringing in our ears, may we remind ourselves of the truth of who it is who has called us His children. May we know who we are as because of the baby Christ in a stable. May we know His love for us and His hope in us. May our hearts be reminded that in the baby in Bethlehem came the hope that even we are loved beyond our imaginations by the God who is for us and will get us through.
Whether you believe in God or not the message of the Christmas story is the same. That even in the chaos and fear of the world there is hope. That even today we can find our way to freedom from fear; we can lead others to places of hope with our words and our actions.
Who can you remind of their identity today in order to point them away from fear and towards hope? Who can speak into your life as you end this year and move towards the next filled with hope? Make an effort today to speak and hear the words of life. Do not be afraid.