(My study of David has taken me right up to the edge of the Christmas season. So far, I’ve considered how he created one of the biggest scandals recorded in the Old Testament. In spite of all his accomplishments and contributions, it seems his career is tottering on the edge of ruin at the end of the eleventh chapter of II Samuel. It looks as if the only thing really going in his favor is the conclusion drawn and stated early in his youth, i.e. :”He was a man after God’s own heart.” (I Samuel 13:13-14). In light of the mess he’s made, his ‘comeback’ seems impossible at worst and an uphill climb at best. Soon we’ll continue the study of his come back. You haven’t yet heard the rest of the story. ~don)
Thoughts at Christmas
It’s been my custom for quite a while to set aside the studies and thoughts I’ve had earlier and consider the Christmas narratives as though reading them for the first time. For my own benefit and to keep the real meaning of this eternal event in proper focus, I ponder some not so obvious lessons learned in Bethlehem.
DON’T BE AFRAID
“Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end” (Luke 1:27~33)
More than once the Angel of the Lord told his audience “Don’t Be Afraid.” That seems to be a note worth striking again and again. For Mary, she was understandably startled and frightened at the sudden appearance of the Angel, and the responsibility that was about to be thrust upon her. Both were reasons for a teenage girl to be frightened. But the fear must have been relieved when the Angel calmed her fear and told her: “You have found favor with God.”
I’ll bet she was unaware of that. She didn’t know God had a special role for her to fulfill! She was just a kid! How could she have possibly had an idea of such eternal enormity?! She certainly had no inflated idea of her own importance.
This looks like a good place to stop and think about implications. Do you suppose there is the possibility. . . even a very slight possibility. . . that God may view YOU (and Me) in a favorable way. Is it possible, unlikely as it may seem to you at present. . . that God favors you and has a special purpose for you?
The point the Angel is making is that God knows what He’s doing, even when His children don’t. Therefore, we don’t need to be afraid. This incident, which occurred even before Mary became pregnant, should serve to calm our fears and help us understand that God has great plans for his children. . . even for those who may be unaware of His intention to use them to bless others!
When David was writing, he gave as his reason for being unafraid even though he had to walk “through the valley of the shadow of death”(Psalm 23). He felt he didn’t need to fear any circumstance, if in fact the Lord was with him.
“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people, for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2: 10 ~ 11)
Early in Luke’s account, apparently on the night of Jesus’ birth, some shepherds were taking care of their flocks outside the town and again the Angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to them. They were so startled and so afraid that it actually hurt physically. “They were sore afraid.” You’ve probably had such a sensation when something you weren’t expecting happened. If you can remember such a reaction, you probably know how terrified the shepherds must have been.
The Angel (who isn’t identified in this instance) told them not to be afraid. This time, the reason given for their not needing to be afraid was the reason the Angel gave for his sudden appearance. He had an announcement to make which could allay their fears and ours as well: “ I bring you good tidings of great joy, for unto you is born this day a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.”
In our world which seems at times to be spinning out of control, as fierce, wild, wicked forces run rampant, apparently determined to destroy our way of life, there is much reason for fear. We may attempt to amuse ourselves and try to avoid harsh realities that explode all around us and threaten our very existence. But, somehow the gaudy lights and the sounds and scents of Christmas do not mask or relieve the enormous, ominous sense of fear which stalks and haunts the world.
One of the messages which emerges clearly in the Christmas story is that we do not need to be afraid. God is with us. The “good tidings of great joy” are sufficient to drive the darkest fears away and bring light and hope of forgiveness and eternal life. That word of advice does not just appear here. It is a constant. A part of loving faith is that it casts out fear.
When it looked as if the world seemed at its worst and people were ready to give up, beaten and broken, this is what God said: “Do not Be afraid.”
At perhaps the worst possible time in one of the world’s remotest places the Light of the Word burst upon the ancient world and we were told: “Don’t be Afraid.” Later, in the middle of a lake in the middle of the night in the middle of a sudden squall, Jesus appeared to His friends saying: “It is I. Be not afraid.”
To be sure there’s much to be learned as we stand in awe at the advent of the King of Kings. One of the things we most need and can treasure is this simple, profound, beautiful sentiment:
“DO NOT BE AFRAID.”
God’s son and servant, your friend and fellow student