COVER STORY – CHRISTMAS
The sight, smell, and sounds of a little baby give no reason for fear. Quite the opposite; watching a sleeping baby can overwhelm one’s heart with comfort, contentment, and joy. The world’s noise, wickedness, and danger all fade away when one is gently rocking in a chair while cradling a baby.
Joseph and Mary experienced the love that saturates parents’ hearts, but God was giving even more. The difficulties of life in the world may very well have faded into the background while baby Jesus was cooing and Mary was swaddling Him, but Jesus was born for much more than baby-joy. Jesus was born to defeat sorrow and to conquer its source, sin.
The words most frequently repeated throughout the account of Jesus’ birth are, “fear not,” or more literally, “stop being afraid.”
These words always come from God, either directly or through His messenger—an angel. Every time these words are spoken, Jesus and His work are the antidote for fear.
When the angel Gabriel appeared to Zacharias, he said, “Stop being afraid.” Why? Because God would give Zacharias a son who would be the forerunner of the Savior. He would “. . . make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:17) Zacharias and Elizabeth had been praying and waiting for a child for decades, but Israel had been praying and waiting for the Messiah for millennia. The time was full, the Savior was coming—stop being afraid.
Gabriel appeared to Mary and said, “Stop being afraid.” Why? “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus.” (Luke 1:31) Jesus means “Savior.” Stop being afraid, the long-promised Savior is coming to pay the ransom for your sins.
Similarly, as Joseph tossed and turned wondering what to do about pregnant Mary and his betrothal to her, an angel appeared to him in a dream and said, “Stop being afraid, and take Mary to be your wife.” Why? “She will bring forth a Son and . . . He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)
After Jesus was born, an angel appeared to shepherds watching their flocks in the field. The angel said, “Stop being afraid.” Why? “There is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11)
The fear-stopping message of the Gospel was declared at Jesus’ birth, and it would become the central message of Jesus’ ministry.
Jairus was a father who had only experienced the joy of a newborn daughter one time, and twelve years later he heard a servant say, “Your daughter is dead.” Jesus told Jairus, “Stop being afraid.” (Luke 8:49-56) Why? Because Jesus came to conquer death.
Once the disciples thought a ghost was approaching their boat in a battering storm. It was really Jesus and He said, “Stop being afraid.” (Matthew 14:27) Why? Because Jesus is the Son of God and has power over wind and wave.
Fear prompted by sin’s guilt is remedied by Jesus, Who has set us free from sin. The comfort for sorrow and fear as we face death—our own or that of a loved one—is Jesus, Who says, “I am the resurrection and the life.” (John 11:25)
Whenever sin or the world or your own troubled thoughts leave you anxious and fearful, go to the manger and pick up the baby Jesus in faith’s arms. Rock with Him as you read His Word. Be at peace as you hear your Savior whisper to your troubled heart, “Stop being afraid, for I have redeemed you.” (Isaiah 43:1)
Wayne Eichstadt is pastor of Gethsemane Lutheran Church in Spokane Valley, Washington.