There have been many emotions throughout this Covid year – anger, uncertainty, confusion – but high up there, perhaps at the top, was and still is – fear. Fear of a 2nd wave – which did happen. Fear of a 3rd wave – we watch those daily numbers from the DHHS and breathe a sigh of relief when it’s zero again. Fear of catching or transmitting the virus – so we clean everything and wear masks when we think we might be vulnerable.
Fear, in the Bible, is the greatest attack on faith. Fear is what makes us look away from God and to our own strength. Whether it’s Covid 19 or Climate Change or whatever has caused fear in us – it’s easy to want to take control ourselves of the situation. Luther said, in explaining the First Commandment – whatever you run to in time of fear is truly your God. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t do something but that our first response to any fear should be to turn to God in prayer. Because God promised – Jesus would be called Immanuel – God with us. Jesus promised – I am with your always to the end of the age.
So in any situation, let us turn first to the one who is Lord of Heaven and Earth. Isn’t that how we normally operate? When we purchase something and it breaks down we turn to our manufacturer’s warranty. We turn to the company that makes the product or the store that we bought it from. If we tinker with it first we can void the manufacturer’s warranty.
In many of the Christmas stories that we hear during Christmas period, we hear of God’s messengers, the angels, delivering this very message. Do not be afraid. When the angel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah to announce that his wife Elizabeth would become the mother of John the Baptist, even in her old age, Gabriel’s first words to him were, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, your prayer has been heard” Not long after, Gabriel appeared again, this time to Mary, to announce that she would be the mother of Jesus. And again his first words were, Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God” And an angel appeared to Joseph, too. He was betrothed to Mary and it would have been understandable in those days if he had broken off the relationship with her, but the angel 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”.
And finally, on Christmas Day, in glorious splendour and light, an angel appeared to the shepherds while they were tending their sheep and said to them, “Fear not, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour who is Christ the Lord”. The story of Christmas is all about removing our fear and replacing it with faith and love. For God so loved the world that he sent his one and only Son. The faith of Elizabeth and Zechariah giving birth to John the Baptist. The faith of Mary and Joseph giving birth to the Son of God. The faith of the Shepherds that believed the angel’s message – let us go and see this thing that has been told to us. The faith of the Magi who travelled great distance to worship the newborn King of the Jews, even though they were not Jews themselves. And their faith that disobeyed Herod’s command to return and tell him where this child was and returned home via a different route.
There is so much fear in the world that influences how we live our lives. That’s not to say that we become irresponsible but that we turn to God first so that how we live our lives is not motivated by fear. We may in fact live no differently in our responses but we will live without the fear, trusting God that he is with us.
Do not be afraid.
We may still reduce our carbon footprint – wear our masks and sanitize everything – but not out of fear but out of respect and love for God and our neighbour – and that makes a big difference in how we live.
So may the Christmas message for you in this very different year – a year of uncertainties – a year of confusion – a year of concern – may it be a year that is not lived in fear but in joy knowing that God loves us so much that he would never abandon us.
The one who gave his one and only Son for you – surely would not let you do this on your own.
The message of Christmas is a message of great joy for all the people. Today your Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to all.