Fear. Sometimes you can smell it. It permeates the air and sends out waves of anxiety. It causes our hearts to race and our hair to stand on end. It produces uncontrollable panic. It robs us of joy and steals our peace. It snatches from us the blessing of rest. It thrives on sleepless nights. It’s awful. It’s miserable.
This is the season of perpetual hope. When dreams of sugar plums dance in our heads as we snuggle warmly in our beds at night. When children sing joy to the world and steeple bells ring peace on earth goodwill to men. When the faithful come joyful and triumphant and silent nights are holy nights. When white Christmases flood our dreams and the sound of sleigh bells echo through the woods. When the star of wonder shines in the nighttime sky and away in a manger a baby is born.
At least, this is the way it should be.
We sing the songs and serenade with carols. We read the stories and meditate on the Word. We watch the movies and admire the live Nativity. We bake. We decorate. We play holiday music and wish one another Merry Christmas, but even in the midst of Christmas, fear creeps in. It catches us by surprise at the most inopportune moments. We stop and take a deep breath. The Christmas spirit is under attack. We want it. We need it. We fight for it.
In these days on the Kingdom Calendar there’s a lot to be fearful about. Our country’s a mess. Our government’s a mess. Our health care system’s a mess. Most of America is struggling to stay afloat. We work so hard and make so little. We’re angry. We’re frustrated. Sometimes it seems out-of-control. Chaotic. We have reason to be afraid.
But we have a greater reason to hope.
When Jesus came to earth things weren’t much different than they are today. God’s people were living in difficult times. They were oppressed by Roman rule. They were taxed to death. They were poor. They lived in fear, but they lived with the hope that Messiah was coming. It was in the midst of this fear that Jesus was born. It was in the midst of these difficult times that Hope came alive.
“…God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you…Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus.” John 1:26-
The angel wouldn’t have told Mary, ‘Do not fear,’ if she hadn’t been afraid. We don’t need courage if we have no fear. God knows we’re a fearful people. Yes, these are difficult times, but God still comes to us in our fear. He does some of His best work when we’re afraid. There’s something about courage that triumphs over fear. There’s something about the power of God that conquers fear. There’s something about the peace of God that rises above fear. There’s something about the way peace changes the very air we breathe.
The times when fear creeps up on me I remind myself that God. Favors. Me. I may not have lived in biblical times or been chosen to be the mother of Jesus, but I am still chosen. By God. He. Esteems. Me. He looks on me with affection. I’m important to Him. He knows what scares me, what causes me sleepless nights, what produces anxiety in me. When fear creeps in and threatens to steal my joy God reminds me He. Is. With. Me. I don’t have to be oppressed by the rule of fear in my life. Messiah has come. He. Reigns. He. Rules. He. Lives. In me. And in you, if you’re His child.
Oh My! I think I hear the angels singing…
The good news of the Christmas story is that God is all about hope. He is the Hope-Giver. So, when fear threatens to steal your Christmas spirit just remember: Jesus still brings rest to merry gentlemen and silent stars still go by above our deep and dreamless sleep. He still disperses the gloomy clouds of night and puts death’s dark shadows to flight. He is still the everlasting light and shines in the darkest streets. He still sings to lowly shepherds and calls to all mankind. He still rises with healing in His wings and one day….oh, happy day…peace will reign over all the earth.
He is still Immanuel. God. With. Us.
And He is still called, “Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6
And because Hope is alive, fear cannot survive. Because Hope is alive, the Christmas Spirit will never die…