It was the middle of the night and suddenly I was fully awake, my breath coming in gasps, my heart pounding. I realized that I was having a panic attack. Something had triggered my body into a full response to a perceived, but unreal, threat. A few moments later, I was back in control. I am not a coward, nor am I given to running from life’s challenges; but I am realistic about the vulnerability of my humanity. While I refuse to allow fear to control my life, I know it is important to make choices that reduce my exposure to dangers that are part of life. Still, I do not spend a whole lot of time focusing on the potential dangers that lurk all around me. There is simply too much living to do!
In the story of the birth of Christ the phrase, “Fear not!” is recorded on three separate occasions when persons encountered the messengers of the Lord.
- Mary, when she was told that she would be the mother of Jesus, was not elated. Luke tells us that at first she was “confused and disturbed,” by God’s will. But, the angel assured her that God’s favor would rest on her and then he said, “Fear not!”
- Joseph heard that his fiancé was pregnant and he knew it was not his child. He was torn between his desire to love her and his honor. He had decided to quietly end the engagement when the Lord showed up and told him “fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.” (Matthew 1:20, KJV) Isn’t it amazing? Basically, Joseph is told, “just trust Me!” And, he did!
- Zechariah was doing his priestly work, offering incense on the prayer altar, when he was told that he was about to become a Daddy. The only thing was that Elizabeth, his wife, had been unable to conceive and was now by all human accounts too old to have a child! How did Zechariah respond? “He was troubled and fear fell on him.” (Luke 1.12) And what did God say? You’ve figured it out by now, right? Yes, you’re right – “Fear not!”
Mary did not know how it was going to work out, what God’s announcement would mean for her life, but she trusted God anyway. Joseph did not have any explanation for a virgin’s pregnancy, but he was willing to step over his lack of understanding and do what God wanted him to do as he trusted the Sovereign Lord. Zechariah took a while to come around, but he gained a deeper knowledge of the Person of the God he served, and came to trust Him completely.
Now the question comes to you and me – will we trust Him with all things? Will we argue for fuller explanations, demand that He make His plans, even for tomorrow, crystal clear? Or will we hear Him say, “Fear not!” and choose to live faithfully, just for today?
When I am tempted to be fearful, I renew my understanding of His rule over every part of my life and my desire to live in the center of His will. Either I trust Him or I do not; there is no middle ground. He is Lord of all, or He is not Lord at all. There is great confidence available to us when we rest ourselves in the promise of the Lord that He will accomplish His plans for us and through us! Let’s be careful about confusing ‘fate’ and ‘faith’ by just assuming that everything is “God’s will.”
We can walk in our own will. The sinful choices of others will affect us. We have a spiritual foe “who seeks to work us woe.” That is why our daily conversation with our Father is so important. When we are walking close to Him, we will align ourselves with His desire for us and in that place, we will live securely. Hold tightly to this promise – “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5-6, NIV) Fear not! Take this line from the story of the birth of Jesus and make it your guide.
Here is a word from the Word, a prayer of David. “The one thing I ask of the Lord— the thing I seek most— is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, delighting in the Lord’s perfections and meditating in his Temple. For he will conceal me there when troubles come; he will hide me in his sanctuary. He will place me out of reach on a high rock. Then I will hold my head high, above my enemies who surround me. At his Tabernacle I will offer sacrifices with shouts of joy, singing and praising the Lord with music.” (Psalm 27:4-6, NLT)
O Come O Come Emmanuel (Veni Emmanuel)
(Lauren Daigle’s beautifully prayerful presentation of the carol moves me.)
O come O come Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice rejoice Emmanuel
Shall come to thee O Israel
O come Thou Dayspring come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight
O come Desire of nations bind
All peoples in one heart and mind
Bid envy strife and quarrels cease
Fill the whole world with heaven’s peace
John Mason Neale | Thomas Helmore © Words: Public Domain