The angel messenger’s announcements of the coming of Jesus elicited a response of fear to the listeners. As they were confronted with the angel’s appearance the words to them were “Do not be afraid.” This phrase appears four times in the Christmas narratives:
- “… an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, Joseph, son of David, do not fear …” (Matt. 1:20)
- “But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah …” (Luke 1:13)
- “And the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.’” (Luke 1:30)
- “And the angel said, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.’” (Luke 2:10)
Once again, I was struck by what John Stott called “the up to the minute relevance of the Bible.” Underneath the surface of frantic busyness, frenzied consumerism, social media posting, political ranting, and moralistic scolding, I sense deep fear and anxiety in our lives.
Gordon T. Smith wisely observed: “It has become apparent to almost every spiritual writer of our generation that the greatest threat that the church faces in a secular age is not something external to it—not secularism, Islam, or any other “ism” or external agent—but something internal, namely fear.
Smith points to Soren Kierkegaard’s prophetic The Concept of Anxiety, the poet W.H. Auden’s 1947 epic poem titled The Age of Anxiety, and Henri Nouwen’s claim that we all live in a “culture of fear.” Smith concludes: “Fear has become so pathologically present that it is no longer even recognized; it has come to be so part of the air we breathe that we do not even know it is there … [And] secular society has no capacity to look truthfully and critically at the source of this paralyzing fear.”
But the good news of Jesus can look truthfully and powerfully and hopefully at the source of our paralyzing fear because we know the One who told us “Do not be afraid.” He has come. He is here. He has died for our sins and risen to give us new life. He will restore all things and wipe away every tear. He is the Source of the peace that conquers our fears and anxieties.
Seriously, each one of us needs to hear the Lord say some of the first and last words in the Gospel of Matthew, “(Insert your name), do not be afraid.” (Insert your name), I am with you.” These are not just some clever self-help mantras. That is the Word of God spoken by the Incarnate Word of God.
So let me say it again, as you travel through this Christmas season that your fears are addressed, “Do not fear … Do not be afraid … Do not be afraid … Fear not.”
[content adapted from Matt Woodley, Christianity Today]
Grace and Peace,