I’m struck this week by the number of times in the gospel narrative of the birth of Jesus that I find the words, “Do not be afraid.”
– When the angel of the Lord appeared to Zacharias in the Temple to announce the forerunner of the Christ, he said, Do not be afraid.”
– When God sent the angel named Gabriel to visit Mary to reveal to her God’s plan to send His Son, he said, “Do not be afraid, Mary.”
– When Joseph was struggling with Mary’s pregnancy and whether to follow through on his marriage commitment, an angel of the Lord spoke to him in a dream saying, “Do not be afraid.”
– When an angel stood before shepherds in the darkness of the Bethlehem countryside to announce the birth of Jesus, he said to them, “Do not be afraid.”
As I’ve read the words “Do not be afraid” over and over this week, I’ve been reminded of our need to hear those words frequently spoken to us by the Lord. The thing about the instances I’ve listed here in Matthew 1 and Like 1 – 2 is that the words “Do not be afraid” were spoken in times when God was doing something supernatural.
It wasn’t an attack by an enemy or a natural disaster that caused fear and uncertainty. God was sending His Son to redeem the world. But He was doing it in an unexpected and unconventional way. God was doing something great, and it frightened His people.
Quite often that happens with us, too. When God begins to move in unexpected ways in our lives, we become anxious. When He works according to His will and not according to our expectations, the result is often a sense fear in us.
We all know what the Bible teaches in 1 Timothy 1:7, “God has not given us the spirit of fear.” Fear comes from within us, and it often comes as a reaction to what He is doing in and around us. But He doesn’t want us to be fearful when He moves, just as we don’t want our children to be afraid of what we are doing. God wants us to trust Him. So He speaks those gentle words to us often, “Do not be afraid.”
Whether it’s through our personal time of reading the Scriptures, or a sweet time in prayer, or through our fellowship with a fellow believer, God has many ways of reassuring us that we need not fear, but rather trust His way.
If you’re feeling a bit anxious or uncertain today, it’s okay. We’re human. Those feelings are natural. If you’re not sure what God is doing, and it’s got you feeling uneasy and afraid, let me be the one He uses today to remind you, “Do not be afraid.” He knows exactly what He is doing in and through you, even if you’re not so sure.
Merry Christmas! I pray that your celebration of the birth of our Savior was filled with His presence and His peace.