When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, one of the first things he said to her was, “Do not be afraid.” When an angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds on the outskirts of Bethlehem, his first words were, “Do not be afraid.” And God’s word to you this Christmas is, “Do not be afraid.”
We live in a fearful world. On a national and international scale, we are reminded everyday of who and what to fear. I don’t know if our ramped up fear is a result of the 24-hour news cycle, or if the world really is going crazy. As believers, we know what is behind the craziness. We know that “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (I Jn 5:19). Fear, intimidation, and pure evil are being unleashed on the world in the wake of Satan’s influence. Into this chaos, God’s word to us is, “Do not be afraid.”
But let’s set the big picture aside, if we can, and bring it down to a personal level. Even here, we find much to fear. Family dysfunction, broken relationships, chronic sickness, mysterious pain, financial setbacks, job insecurity, and the worry that accompanies these problems surge right to the front of our brains. Into this personal chaos, Jesus says, “Do not be afraid.”
This assurance from Jesus is not a Pollyanna, naïve, let’s-not-acknowledge-the-pain word from our Lord. No, Jesus knows all about tribulation. He knows all about pain; even to the point of carrying the weight of our sin to a painful death on a cross. And He knows your pain. He knows your trial. And He has a word for you.
“In this world you will have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33). In this world, in this pain, in this fear, Jesus is asking us to “take courage, do not be afraid.”
How can we take courage when, on both a personal and global scale, our world seems to be falling apart? The answer is the miracles of Christmas. The first miracle is lying in a manger. When we stare into the face of the baby Jesus, we are seeing Immanuel, God with us. We are seeing the miracle of the Incarnation. God Himself coming to dwell with us.
But there is a second miracle of Christmas that we often overlook. If you are a Christ-follower, when you look inside yourself you are seeing Immanuel, God with us. Do you believe that? It is a miracle. But, it’s true! If you have embraced the gospel message of Jesus Christ, the God of the universe has taken up residence in you. And recognizing this incredible and supernatural indwelling is key to overcoming fear.
The apostle John highlights this in his first letter. “You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He that is in you than he who is in the world” (I Jn 4:4). Can you believe it? Not only are you indwelt with God’s spirit, but it is a Spirit that is far stronger than Satan’s spirit of fear that grips the world.
Believe it because it is true! The Spirit of God who indwells you is greater than the spirit of Satan that is wreaking such havoc in the world. Notice the word “overcome” in both Jesus’ statement (Jn 16:33) and the verse above (I Jn 4:4). We overcome the world, we overcome the spirit of the world, we overcome our fears though the Spirit that lives inside.
Embrace the Spirit of God living inside. Run to the Spirit. Walk in the Spirit. Listen to the Spirit. When you do this, the light of God’s Spirit will shine in you, through you, and out from you like the light shining in that first nativity stable. Follow the light into the stable, and let your gaze land on the manger. Look into the feeding trough. Look into the face of the baby Jesus and see God Himself.
When we look into the face of Jesus, we see a miracle. We see Immanuel, God with us. And when we look in the mirror, we see another miracle. We see Immanuel, God with us, living inside. The miracles of Christmas. The miracles that empower us to, “Take courage, do not be afraid.”