The other day I was in the car listening to an all Christmas music radio station, and between Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause the Christmas carol O Little Town of Bethlehem came on.
Sometimes songs come on and we just sing along without taking notice of the words, but for some reason a line in this classic carol caught my attention, “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” What struck me, as I was driving home on the 401, is the truth that Christmas deals with our fears.
On that first Christmas, God revealed His Son to the world in the midst of all humanity. There, in the tiny village of Bethlehem, the hopes and fears of all the years were met in a Baby lying in a manger.
But Christmas isn't about fear. Christmas is about shopping, wrapping, baking, cooking and over indulging, right? It’s not about fear - but when I think about it, fear is one of the major issues we face when we first encounter God. There is the fear of the unfamiliar. And I would imagine that Joseph, the husband of Mary, had that kind of fear when the angel appeared to him in a dream. This is what Matthew writes:
“Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.’” Matthew 1:19-20
Joseph would have been afraid of what was happening and likely terrified about what people were going to say. Imagine, being Joseph and your fiancee tells you that she is pregnant, but she was still a virgin. Really? This was definitely uncharted waters.
That’s why the angel's words, “Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife,” are very important. When the angel appeared to him and said, “Do not be afraid,” the angel zeroed in on his main problem. And it’s our problem, too. We are afraid of the unfamiliar. When God is at work and we don’t know what He’s doing, we can feel a degree of fear. Bottom line: the things we don’t understand make us nervous.
The angel says to Joseph, “Don’t be afraid.” Don’t fear for your reputation, don’t be afraid of what you don’t understand. God is in this!” I don’t know about you but knowing that God is up to something in my life helps considerably in taking that fear away.
The message to Joseph and to you and me is the same. Don’t be afraid! Christmas is God’s intervention in our lives to bring joy and hope not fear. Because, “Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:11
On that first Christmas night “the hopes and fears of all the years” were met with Jesus - Thanks be to God!