Today we know the news of the birth of Jesus Christ as good news because we know what went on to happen. But it wasn’t good news to the people who heard it for the first time. In fact, it terrified everyone.
At the first Christmas, everybody was afraid. Every one of the main characters had to deal with a different kind of fear. What’s interesting is we still deal with these same fears today. But the message of Christmas is this: Do not be afraid.
Five Fears in the First Christmas
- Mary faced the fear of inadequacy.
Mary was a teenage peasant girl planning to get married. But an angel interrupted her plan by telling her that she was pregnant with the Son of God. She’s engaged to a guy named Joseph. She is told that the child is going to be the promised Son of God? The government is taking a census, her fiancé has to go to his birth town. So while pregnant, she has to go on a long journey with him. There’s over a dozen reasons to feel worried and inadequate.
Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. “Do not be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!” Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.” Luke 1:29-34 NLT
2. Joseph faced the fear of disapproval.
Imagine: Your fiancé tells you she’s pregnant and you know you’ve never had sex with her. Then she claims that God made her pregnant and the baby is the Son of God. Imagine the ridicule, the shame, the gossip, and the criticism heaped on Joseph.
This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph, to whom she was engaged, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly. As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Matthew 1:18-20 NLT
3. The shepherds faced the fear of sudden change.
Put yourself in the shoes of the shepherds. They’re out lying on the grass and tending their flock of sheep. Suddenly, they have life changing news and the sky lights up with stuff they’ve never seen before
That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Do not be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.” Luke 2:8-10
When God shows up, it can be unsettling. But God doesn’t want to scare you. He says do not be afraid.
4. King Herod faced the fear of losing control.
Herod was the king of the Jews. He’s was actually king of Judea and he was hated by the Jews because he wasn’t a full Jew. He ruled with a heavy hand because he was paranoid of losing his throne. He was so paranoid that he had his brother in law killed for fear of him taking over his throne. He had his mother killed, had his wife assassinated, and had his two sons assassinated.
So, when he hears that Jesus “the king of the Jews” is being born he freaks out, yet again. He orders the death of every baby in Israel under two years of age to try to prevent Jesus from growing up. And Mary and Joseph are warned in a dream. They take Jesus to Egypt.
Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.” King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem. Matthew :1-3
5. Zechariah faced the fear of being disappointed.
Zechariah’s wife was named Elizabeth. Elizabeth was the cousin of Mary. Elizabeth and Zechariah were older and had prayed their entire life for a child. They finally give up hope because they were past child bearing years. They were afraid to hope because they’d been disappointed so many times.
Zechariah and Elizabeth had prayed for years and years to have a baby, but it hadn’t happened. When Zechariah found out Elizabeth was pregnant, his first instinct was disbelief. He was afraid to get his hopes up.
While Zechariah was in the sanctuary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the incense altar. Zechariah was shaken and overwhelmed with fear when he saw him. But the angel said, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer.Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. Luke 1:11-13
Zechariah had been disappointed so many times he just didn’t believe it. He would go on to say, “How can I be sure?” He wanted God to prove it to him because he didn’t want to hope again. Some of you can relate to the fear of disappointment that holds people back. By the way, Zechariah’s long awaited son, you may have heard of him. He grew up to be called John the Baptist. And John the Baptist was the forerunner, kind of the announcer of the Messiah who said, he’s coming; get ready.
Which of these five fears are holding you back?
If any of these five fears ring true in your life you really need the message of Christmas. Because if we’ll do what God told Mary and Joseph and everybody else to do, we’ll conquer our fears.
How to Defeat Your Fears
1. Surrender your life completely to God every day!
Start the day saying, “God I’m full of fear. I’m giving you the good, the bad and the ugly of my life right now.” Mary overcame her fear of inadequacy with this statement:
Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” Luke 1:38 NLT
Have you ever said that to God? Have you ever opened your mouth and said to God, “God, you’re my Creator and whatever you want to do with my life, I want to cooperate with.” Have you ever done that? If you have not, you are living in constant tension.
God’s going one way and you’re going a different way and this tension creates fear in your life. We hit dead ends all the time with our plan, but God’s plan does not have a dead end. Your confidence becomes in Him and not in yourself.
2. Stop listening to the voices of fear.
Fear is contagious. You’re going to have to change what ideas you allow in your mind if you want to move out of fear. What you watch and what you listen to.
Would you agree that we’re in a pretty negative culture? It’s easier to just be against stuff and negative and fearful. And sometimes those voices are inside you too. And you have to stop focusing on yourself. We need an objective outside source because we often get it wrong.
Many of us would agree with the prophet Jeremiah, who hears God’s call on his life and out of fear says,
“O Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I can’t speak for you! I’m too young!” Jeremiah 1:6
We’re focused on our inadequacies and the approval of others. But, God doesn’t respond with, “No, Jeremiah! You’re not young, and you do know how to speak! You’re capable and talented and you can do this!”Instead, he tells him not to focus on himself.
The Lord replied, “Don’t say, ‘I’m too young,’ for you must go wherever I send you and say whatever I tell you. And don’t be afraid of the people, for I will be with you and will protect you. I, the Lord, have spoken!” Jeremiah 1:7-8
God doesn’t respond to our fears of inadequacy with reassurances of our strength but with a reminder of His strength.
Stop thinking about yourself, stop listening to voices of fear, and start listening to God.
3. Fill your mind with music that praises God.
Because when you’re scared to death, all your attention is focusing on you. To get rid of fear you’ve got to get the focus off you and get it on God. When you turn your focus on God, that’s called praise. That’s called worship. One of the best ways to get this kind of focus on God is through music.
Do you know what Mary did when she was so frightened about the job that God had given her? She sang about it.
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.” Luke 1:46-47,49 ESV
Worship holds so much power and helps you get the focus on God. It is no accident that Christmas is the most musical of all holidays. Why? Because at the first Christmas everybody sang. Mary sang. Elizabeth sang. The angels sang. The shepherds sang. Even Zechariah wrote a song. You should learn from them and make faith filled music a part of your life.
4. Base your hope on the promises of God.
In the Bible there are promises from God to you about your finances, sex life, relationships, and career. About your past, present, and future. Promises about forgiveness of sin and eternal life.
But if you don’t know them you can’t put your trust in them. If you don’t trust them and surrender to them, you can’t claim them. They’re like gifts that you’ve never unwrapped.
They’re like somebody writing you a check and you never cash it.
It’s time to base your life on the promises of God. This is what gave Mary confidence. Elizabeth noticed this. And in Luke Chapter 1 Elizabeth said to Mary: “You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.’” You believed God will keep his promises.
That’s what gave this young peasant girl enormous confidence in an incredibly fearful situation. She believed God would keep His Word. When you start doing that you will be blessed too.
The Greatest Promise
We must remember the most important promise. It’s the promise that when you die you can go to heaven if you trust in the Son that he sent at Christmas. That’s called the promise of eternal life.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 NIV
That’s the greatest promise. Jesus Christ came to earth at Christmas to die for your sins so you don’t have to pay for your sins. But Jesus didn’t just come to earth to forgive your sins. He didn’t just come to earth to get you into heaven if you trust in him. He also came to eliminate your fears here and now.
Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.” Hebrews 2:14-15
Have you believed so that you might have eternal life?
Check back on your discussion from last week, “A Good Time for Good Times.” How has that message and conversation helped to keep your Christmas perspective and joy from being robbed this Christmas?
Hear the Word
Today, we know that the Christmas story is Good News—God became flesh in order to save us from our sins. But for those who experienced the Christmas story firsthand, the news scared them to death. When you read through the Christmas account, you’ll find that the characters faced five familiar fears
- Mary faced the fear of inadequacy. (Luke 1:29-34)
- Mary faced the fear of disapproval. (Matthew 1:18-20)
- The shepherds faced the fear of sudden change. (Luke 2:8-10)
- King Herod faced the fear of losing control. (Matthew 2:1-3)
- Zechariah faced the fear of being disappointed. (Luke 1:11-13)
If you’re facing any of these fears, it doesn’t mean there’s something defective about you, and you can defeat them! How?
- First, surrender your life completely to God every day. (Luke 1:38)
- Second, stop listening to the voices of fear. (Jeremiah 1:6-8)
- Third, fill your mind with music that praises God. (Luke1:46-49)
- Fourth, base your hope on the promises of God. (Luke1:45)
Hope can’t be based on what you think. It’s based on what God promises. Memorize the promises of God and lean on them when you’re afraid. The greatest promise? John 3:16 — For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. Now, if you haven’t already, spend some time in the Word. Read Luke chapters one and two.
- What stood out to you in this message?
- Is there a time in your life you’ve ever struggled with one of the five fears?
- What does it look like to surrender your life completely to God every day?
- “Fear is contagious.” How have you seen this to be true?
- What are some things you need to stop listening to in 2020? With what could you
- In this message, we focused on basing our hope on the promises of God. Specifically, the promise of salvation and eternal life for whoever believe. (John 3:16) What are some other promises from God we can claim? Prayer Focus: Thank God for his promises and ask God to help you listen and trust him more than any other voice, even yourself.
Tell Someone Else
With whom could you share this message of Christmas? How could you be a voice of hope and peace, rather than fear.