Opening illustration: The early American Indians had a unique practice of training young braves. On the night of a boy’s thirteenth birthday, after learning hunting, scouting, and fishing skills, he was put to one final test. He was placed in a dense forest to spend the entire night alone. Until then, he had never been away from the security of the family and tribe. But on this night, he was blindfolded and taken several miles away. When he took off the blindfold, he was in the middle of the thick woods, and he was terrified. Every time a twig snapped, he visualized a wild animal ready to pounce. After what seemed like an eternity, dawn broke and the first rays of sunlight entered the interior of the forest. Looking around, the boy saw flowers, trees, and the outline of a path. Then to his utter astonishment, he beheld the figure of a man standing just a few feet away, armed with bow and arrow. It was his father. He had been there all night long. Just like our heavenly Father who is there at every moment of our life. Especially in hard times when there is only one pair of footprints in the sand. He is always there to carry us through.
Christmas was designed to destroy fear. If this message doesn’t reach out to you today, it will stay as ‘Fire shut up in my bones!’ Let us look at four short passages of Christmas where God had used His Angel to reach out to these four people to tell them “Not to Fear.”
Introduction: Life can be difficult. Being a Christian in a non-Christian world poses all kinds of problems. The world does not know Jesus. The world does not love Him. The world does not understand why He came. You, on the other hand, do know Jesus. You do love Him. And, you do understand why He came. He came to save you from your sins and to give you new life. He came to bring you peace and joy in the Spirit. He came so you might have fellowship with God.
These things you already know. And you also know that though you are saved from sin and filled with the Spirit of God, life in this world still is not perfect. It is still difficult. As a Christian, what do you do when life is coming down on you hard, when there seems to be no way out, when your relationship with God is being affected? When you are worried or afraid? When you are in distress?
When you are born again, you start seeing things you can’t explain Goodness you can’t explain, Deliverance you can’t explain, Mercy you can’t explain, Provision you can’t explain and there are some funny family members in the kingdom you just can’t explain.
The devil is trying to make us afraid ~ the stock market falls from an egg to a tall chicken. Many telling the young folks in America that the good days of the country are behind them. It is fearful
Why should we NOT be afraid [fear not]?
1. God has heard and will do the impossible:
Zacharias ~ Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. [Luke 1: 13]
He calls him by his name; for holy men are known to angels in person, and by name; to whom they are ministering spirits, and for whose good they are concerned; and bid him not be afraid, as the angel also said to the women at Christ’s sepulcher, Matthew 28:5 for he saw by his countenance and gestures, that he was greatly surprised and terrified at the sight of him: which he had many years ago put up for a son; for it cannot be thought that he had been now praying for one, being in such an advanced age, and having for years past given up all hopes of one, and was even unbelieving, when he was told by the angel he should have one: prayer is sometimes immediately heard, and answered; and sometimes an answer is deferred a long time, to try the faith and patience of the saints, and to discover the more the wisdom, power, and goodness of God: or this may have regard to his present prayer, one branch of which might concern the coming of the Messiah, which was now expecting, and therefore is told, that his prayer was heard; since the angel that appeared to him, brought him the news of the conception and birth of his forerunner:
(i) Good things are gone and it is too late for me
You will have joy and gladness. You belong to a kingdom that is not built with hands. There were things you prayed about years and years ago and some of you may have already forgotten about it. But God doesn’t forget. Fear of it (baby) being too late.
2. God’s favor is upon you:
Mary ~ Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. [Luke 1: 30]
Observing the consternation and confusion she was in, he calls her by her name, signifying that she was well known to him, as the saints are to the ministering angels, who are often sent unto them, encamp about them, and do them many good offices; and bids her not be afraid, he had no ill design upon her, nor brought any ill news to her: or "found grace with God"; and what that particular grace and favor was, is expressed in the following verses.
God surpasses others to show you his abundant favor, at times more than others. Just as a boss who gives you a raise or promotion, surpassing all the others because he found you faithful, sincere and loyal.
(i) Popularity is not the gift of God but promotion is
(ii) God doesn’t care about celebrities and those who are sold out to him. He doesn’t care about them as they are already his. He goes after the ones following Christ. He out runs all of us to church so that he can get some to yield him.
3. What is about to happen in your life is of the Holy Spirit: [nothing happens in our life without God’s intervention OR Him allowing it]
Joseph ~ Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. [Matthew 1: 20]
Do not hesitate, or have any apprehensions about her virtue and purity. Do not fear that she will be unworthy of you, or will disgrace you. To take her as thy wife; to recognize her as such, and to treat her as such. Though a dark cloud now overhangs this relationship, it is unsullied still. Is the direct creation of divine power. A body was thus prepared pure and holy, and free from the corruption of sin, in order that he might be qualified for his great work the offering of a pure sacrifice to God. As this was necessary in order to the great work which he came to perform, Joseph is directed by an angel to receive her as pure and virtuous, and as every way worthy of his love.
(i) Terrified with thoughts that trouble us ~ fear of the unknown
4. Hope of good news and great joy for the future:
Shepherds ~ Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. [Luke 2: 10]
For he was not a messenger of bad, but of good tidings: tidings, that were both wonderful and amazing, and therefore a "behold" is prefixed to them, as well as to excite to attention; and which were good news, and glad tidings, for such the birth of Christ of a virgin is: in which the good will and amazing love of Cod to man are displayed, and the promises, and prophecies relating to him fulfilled; and the work of man’s salvation, his peace, pardon, righteousness, &c. about to be accomplished, and so matter of great joy: not carnal, but spiritual; not feigned, but real; not temporary, but lasting; even such as cannot be taken away, nor intermeddled with; and not small, but great, even joy unspeakable, and full of glory: not to every individual of mankind; not to Herod and his courtiers, who were troubled at it; nor to the greater part of the Jewish nation, who when he came to them, received him not, but rejected him as the Messiah; particularly not to the chief priests, Scribes, and Pharisees, who when they saw him, said, this is the heir, let’s kill him, and seize on the inheritance; but to all that were waiting for him, and were looking for redemption in Israel; to all sensible sinners who rejoice at his birth, and in his salvation; see Isaiah 9: 3 to all the chosen people of God, whether Jews or Gentiles, whom God has taken to be his covenant people, and has given to his Son, as such, to redeem and save; to these the incarnation of Christ, with all the benefits resulting from it, is the cause of great joy, when they are made a willing people in the day of Christ’s power.
If you came to church today, looking for a Christmas present, here it is in the story of the shepherds.
1. You are afraid. That shouldn’t surprise you. The truth may hurt, but the truth also sets you free. Much of your life has been reacting to your fears.
2. You may have created for yourself a downward spiral, reacting to your fears and separating yourself from God and others. The gift is being able to recognize your downward spiral, stop running away and start running toward the God of Christmas. The upward spiral will take you closer to God and others.
3. You can create for yourself an upward spiral. You can move forward. You don’t have to stay locked by whatever you are afraid of. You can move forward. And there, God incarnate, God among us, waits for you just like he waited for the shepherds.
Fear not, for behold I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all people, for unto you is born a savior who is Christ the Lord.
And, what is he to save us from, if not our fears. Fear not!
(i) We can’t take out God from our constitution. The only solution we have as a nation is God Himself.
Illustration: Some years ago, the news service carried a story about a dramatic rescue. A California Highway Patrol officer received a call. It seems a woman was about to jump off a bridge. Immediately the officer, a woman herself, was confronted with a dilemma. This police officer had an extreme fear of heights, and the would-be jumper was perched on the railing of a bridge 443 feet above the floor of a deep gorge. So, you can appreciate the officer’s situation. The officer forced herself, however, to walk calmly toward the woman and sit down beside her. There, high above that gorge, they talked for two hours while the officer struggled with her own panic. Finally, the jumper agreed to come away from the railing and get help. That officer put herself in the very same place and the very same danger as the woman who was threatening to jump. She didn’t turn away from the soul in distress; she turned to her. And that’s exactly what God has done for us in Christ. He has turned to us.
Conclusion: Throughout this year we have had fears of floods; economy, losing our jobs, disappointing people (no fear of disappointing God), war in Iraq & Afghanistan, terrorist attacks in India and the list can be unending.
Considering Zacharias, Mary, Joseph and the shepherds we learn ‘Not to Fear’ when we are afraid! Fear Not! It is how we would like to live. How do you do it?
1. First, we must confront our fears knowing God will do the impossible in our lives.
2. Second, we must understand that too much doubt can sink us; therefore it is important to know that God has favored us.
3. Third, we must understand that nothing happens without God knowing and allowing it in our lives. It is of the Holy Spirit.
4. Finally, we must remember that regardless of what happens, our future is intact because God is with us, therefore it doesn’t matter whoever may be against us.
Halleluiah, Praise the Lord! Amen and Amen!