In the Christmas story there are four places where someone is told, Do not be afraid. In each case it was an angel who said the words, and there’s no doubt that meeting an angel is frightening – they are awesome beings, messengers of God. But it wasn’t that fear that was being addressed. We can learn from the stories of these four people.
Zechariah was a priest and in the middle of an act of worship when he met an angel. The message he was given was so amazing that he didn’t believe it. He had doubts.
Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” (Luke 1:18)
Sometimes what the Bible tells us doesn’t seem possible. The angel struck him dumb, but Zechariah rediscovered his faith in the silence brought upon him.
Mary met an angel unexpectedly and struggled with his message. God was asking her to go through shame and condemnation.
Mary was greatly troubled at his words (Luke 1:29). “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” (Luke 1:38)
She was facing change, enormous change, but with faith.
Joseph met an angel in a dream when he was thinking about separating from Mary because she was pregnant. The news was a great shock and disappointment to him.
Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. (Matthew 1:19)
When the angel explained, Joseph wondered if he had the strength to endure what God had planned. But he accepted God’s plan.
The shepherds met an angel in the night out on the hillside. They were afraid of the part they had to play in the great Christmas story.
An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. (Luke 2:9)
As they journeyed to find the baby they made a spiritual journey from fear to worship.
What about us?
As you begin a new year, what do you fear?
Are you uncertain of God’s promises? Can you “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)? Can you find faith like Zechariah?
Are you facing change? Can you say, The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. (Psalm 18:2)? Can you find faith like Mary?
Are you worried about the future? For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. (2 Chron.16:9) Can you find faith like Joseph?
Are you afraid of what you have to do? So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.(Isaiah 41:10) Can you find faith like the shepherds?
Remember, whatever the future holds, God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)
[based on a sermon by Pastor John Rogers at Pantygwydr Baptist Church]