Have you ever considered how much fear and courage are woven into the Christmas story? For a moment let’s remove the glitter and look a little closer at the real people of the first Christmas.
Luke tells us that Zechariah was troubled and gripped with fear, Mary was greatly troubled or terrified, and the shepherds were terribly frightened. (Luke 1:12,29,2:9) Joseph was told in a dream not to be afraid ( Matt.1:20). It seems that the angel Gabriel spent a portion of each visit calming the fears of his audience.
The sudden appearance of an angel would certainly shake you up, but Gabriel’s good news also ushered in events that would require great courage. Consider Zechariah and Elizabeth, advanced in years, (a nice way of saying way too old for having children), who are granted an incredible answer to prayer — a baby. The challenge: the prayer is answered probably a good thirty to forty years after their request had first been uttered. Imagine the concerns that could creep into your heart if you were an aged couple receiving such news!
Consider Mary, teenaged and innocent, chosen for the incredible privilege of being the mother of the Messiah, but also having to face the real threat of rejection and slander from all those she loved and knew, including her fiance. And Joseph, a righteous man had to endure the disgrace of Mary’s pregnancy and protect the Christ child from fierce enemies.
The sign of true healing isn’t the absence of pain; it’s the ability to keep moving. Pain may be an indicator that an injury needs the healing time of rest, reflection, or comfort in being still before God. But to be discouraged or paralyzed because of the presence of pain isn’t necessary. If pain lingers, it could be from a loss or grief over someone’s hurtful choices, e.g., Jesus weeping over Jerusalem. Lingering pain may also be God’s avenue to bring character and closeness to Him (Philippians 3:10,11).
Each one had his/her own unique challenges that surfaced fears and summoned courage. What challenges are you facing now? What fears have crept into your consciousness and haunt your sleep? Where do we find the courage we need when we feel afraid?
The answer is found in Christmas! “They shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.” (Matt. 1:23) Because Jesus was born, we are never alone! Whatever situation we face, whatever fear you feel or bad news you dread, God is with us.
Isaiah makes this very practical using the very name Immanuel, God is with us. He warns us not to fear what others fear or dread: “It is the Lord of hosts whom you should regard as holy. And He shall be your fear, and He shall be your dread. Then He shall become a sanctuary,” (Is. 8:13-14a).
Don’t worry about the emotion of fear, but be careful to choose the object of your fear. We are to fear God not man or situations. Whenever fears creep or rush in on me, in my mind, I am to replace the object of that fear with Jesus. Immanuel, God is with me. I focus on Him and He becomes my sanctuary, my safety, and my peace. I chose to revere and obey Him, not my fearful emotions.
Jill Briscoe says courage is “Doing it scared”. I like that definition. After all, it doesn’t take much courage to do something that doesn’t cause you any apprehension. Sometimes we think of courage in relation to how dangerous a situation is, but it is equally needed to face our nagging fears. Courage can mean having the fortitude to face our challenges and do what is right despite our feelings of fear. It means deciding we will serve and obey our God, not our renegade feelings.
Joseph did what the angel commanded (Matt.1:24), Mary surrendered completely to God’s will (Luke 1:38), and Zechariah obeyed God’s word given to him through Gabriel. Afterwards, both Mary and Zechariah’s fears became songs of praise. “He has raised up a horn of salvation for us�to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.” (Luke 1:57-80).
Jesus is that horn of salvation, our Immanuel. The Christ of Christmas enables us to live pure lives without fear.