This Christmas Eve I will be speaking about something angels say often in the Christmas story. Four simple words are spoken. "Do not be afraid," the angel tells Joseph in Matthew 1. "Do not be afraid," the angel tells Zechariah in Luke 1. "Do not be afraid," the angel tells Mary in Luke 1. "Do not be afraid," the angels tell the shepherds in Luke 2. What do you think about these words? Do you think they might be important?
Here's what I think. We live in a world where we are afraid of the wrong things. The Greek word for fear is "Phobos." It is where we get the word phobia. A phobia is a fear that is 1) irrationally powerful and 2) behavior-altering. Jesus knew this when, after His resurrection, He tells Mary not to be afraid. The angels of the Christmas story knew this as they try to get Zechariah, Mary, Joseph and the shepherds to see what is actually going on.
Two points about fear. First, in the Christmas narrative God is moving and acting all around the players ... yet they fear. When they fear they loose the awesomeness of what is happening and the beauty of what they are seeing and hearing. They irrationally cower in fear rather than grasp the magnitude of God's mighty works. When they listen to the words, "Do not be afraid," they return to the beautiful reality that God is doing something really good and really amazing! Zechariah hears that he will have a son. Mary hears that she is chosen by God. Joseph hears that he is called to buck societal norms and take Mary for his wife. The shepherds hear that a Savior is born and they actually get to visit baby Jesus! When we allow God's action to dispel our fear, we see God's activity. So ... do not be afraid and miss what God is doing!
Second, do not allow fear to alter your behavior away from God's calling. I have seen fear keep people out of Church, out of ministry, out of fellowship with other believers and out of the will of God. Fear allows us to demonize other people, imagine the worst about the Church and distance us from those who need us.
Never forget that Zechariah, Mary, Joseph and the shepherds had a part in the greatest story ever told. If they had allowed their fear to run the show, they would have missed the blessing, the risk, the danger, the joy and the reality of being in the center of God's plan. I hope you realize that fear is not a spiritual discipline and that allowing fear to alter your behavior is not natural, healthy or good. God wants better things for you! Randy