Most of us have read the story of Jesus’ birth and sung the songs of Christmas many times during the holiday season over the years. We celebrate the “good tidings of great joy” that announced the Savior’s birth, but we often skim right over the first two words spoken by the angel as the birth of Jesus was announced.
We fail to recognize that the first recorded words of Christmas were “Fear Not”. We would expect the first words to be joy, peace, love, or some other “Christmas-y” words.
Why in the world would Christmas start out with “Fear Not”?
I guess watching over their flocks by night was a pretty quiet and lonesome task. Probably no cell or Internet coverage way out there in the fields. Just some sheep and a handful of bored guys trying to stay awake until shift change. So an angel showing up unexpectedly in the middle of the night would certainly be a shock and cause for fear. And indeed, they were terrified.
So, now we have a situation. The angel is prepared to make the greatest announcement in history, but we have a group of shepherds too scared to listen. Before the messenger could speak the “good tidings of great joy”, the fear of the shepherds had to be addressed. Before the shepherds could receive the great news, their fear had to be overcome. The first message that they needed to hear was “Fear not” and that is indeed the first message they heard.
It is still pretty much the same for us today. Just like the shepherds, our first reaction to news or changing circumstances is often fear.
Fear often paralyzes us and prevents us from hearing and responding wisely in so many circumstances and situations.
Fear can distort reality to the point that we cannot see or think clearly.
Fear is the arch enemy of truth.
It can be at the core of a host of dangerous emotions like jealously, bitterness, anger, insecurity, and on and on. It can negatively impact our mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Decisions made in fear are often decisions that we will regret. So, since fear is so common and can be so damaging, how do we “Fear Not”?
I wish I could tell you that I have this all figured out and that fear never crosses my mind. I wish I could give you some words of wisdom that would vanquish the fears in your life. I can’t do that, but I can share some thoughts that are of help to me in times of fear:
—1. God is always in control and I know Him and can trust Him in every situation. I have that knowledge and assurance through my faith in Jesus. The angel on that first Christmas morning assured me that a Savior had been born unto me and I have accepted that Savior and I now have the assurance that ultimately everything will be ok. You too can have that assurance if you have accepted the truth of who Jesus is and what He has done for you.
—2. I have learned the importance of my Bible to my everyday life. I am certainly no Bible scholar, but I have learned how to find counsel and encouragement and in moments of fear, I am often able to find the guidance I need to work through the circumstances. You too can find an easy-to-understand translation of the Bible and begin to build a reservoir of wisdom and encouragement to draw on in times of fear.
— 3. I have learned that I need the encouragement of others in times of fear. I need a faith family that I can share my fears with and draw strength from. I have done life both ways- without a faith family and with a faith family – and I promise you that having a faith family you can depend on will make a huge difference in your life.
If church has not been a part of your life recently, or never, there can be fear in taking that step. Perhaps you have never actually met Jesus personally. If so, why not follow the example of those shepherds and go see what this Jesus is all about – right after you “Fear Not”?
— 4. I can talk to God and hear from God. I can tell him my fears and seek his help with those fears. I can be totally honest with him and seek guidance from him. In God, I can find comfort, calm, and peace during times of worry and fear.
Communicating with God may not be a reality in your life, but I assure you that it is a reality in mine, and it can be in yours also. And being on speaking terms with the Almighty is a pretty good remedy for fear!
So, as we proceed through this season with the many joyful messages of Christmas, perhaps we should pause and remember that the first recorded words of Christmas were “Fear Not”.
Dear Lord, calm our fears so that we can clearly hear your message.
“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them and they were terrified. But the angel said to them ‘Fear not. I bring you good tidings of great joy that will be for all people. Today in the city of David a Savior has been born unto you; He is Christ the Lord.’” (Luke 2:9-11)