Summary: Angels always approach humans with "Don’t be afraid." Easier said than done. We are very afraid.
As a kid fear was a great experience. Especially if it involved SOMEBODY ELSE being afraid.
Christmas and Easter are great holidays, but when I was a kid, Halloween was the most fun. Dressing up like some ghost or monster and jumping out of the bushes to yell, “boo!” And to see your best friend nearly faint with fear – ohhh what fun!
Or to be an a camp and to tell ghost stories around a camp fire until all the newest kids at the camp were too frightened to go to sleep.
Of course, when you grow up you don’t stop being afraid of things. In fact, fears become more troubling – no longer any fun at all.
We are afraid of cancer.
We are afraid that something might happen to our children.
We are afraid of what will happen with terrorist attacks.
We are afraid of losing our jobs, or of making the boss mad.
We are afraid our spouse will divorce us and leave us – and some are afraid the spouse will stay and continue to abuse.
Even this season of Advent and Christmas is full of fear -- fear of not having enough money, fear of not meeting everyone’s expectations (what if I didn’t get them the right gift or what if they get me a better gift than I got them); we worry over meals, over who will be there and who will not. We just seem to fear everything.
In the Gospel of Luke, Mary sees an angel and the angel tells Mary, “Fear not.”
Which has always struck me as strange – because if an angel suddenly appears before me, I am going to be shocked, surprised, disconcerted and yes – afraid.
This morning, I want us to look at three times God sent an angelic messenger to earth with messages connected to the birth of His Son, the Lord Jesus. Every one of these angels brought big news – news that troubled the hearts of those who heard. And yet, as troubling as the news was, the news also conveyed a message of peace.
Each one of these angels spoke the phrase, “Fear not.”
Why are we not to be afraid?
First, We are Told, Fear Not -- But Believe (Luke 1:26-31,34-35)
In our New Testament Lesson, we read,
26 In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee,
27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.
28 The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you."
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.
30 But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.
31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.
34 "How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?"
35 The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.
When our lives do not go as we have planned it is easy to fear that which is unknown. Often, God will allow things to happen in your life and in mine that seem to be hard to bear and hard to understand, yet the Lord sends them our way so that we might grow in Him and come to know Him in a better way. When these times arise, it is easy to question the Lord and His judgment.
Let’s look for a moment at Mary’s situation. If Mary were to be a part of God’s plan then she faced the possibility of having her engagement to Joseph broken; she knew that Joseph would have the legal right to have her executed when it becomes known that she was pregnant. Even if somehow Joseph would still marry her, she knew how people would talk; they would have a reputation for being sexually promiscuous. This was a less than ideal situation for a young Jewish girl to find herself in. God called on Mary to step out on faith in order to be a part of His divine daring plan. But being a part of the plan would cost Mary something. Yet Mary was willing to step out on faith because she knew God loved her.
And therein lies the difference between when God challenges us to step out on faith and the world ask us to take a risk.
In this world, sometimes the challenge to do something risky comes from those who don’t really love us nor do they have our best interest at heart. The challenge doesn’t even have to be spoken; it may just be the unspoken peer pressure to fit in with the crowd. We’ve all be in that position at one time or another.