(Part 1 is here)
Besides hearing the song, A Shepherd's Prayer, on the radio each year, God's other Christmas gift to me is a new perspective on the Christmas story. About six weeks ago, God grabbed me with this year's insight as I was reading my Bible. Have you ever noticed how many times "Fear not!" appears in the Christmas story - it jumped off the page at me.
Over the last six week period, I have probably done devotionals on "Fear not!" four or five times to different groups, but the longer I think on it, the deeper it gets.
There are three words/phrases that frame this - fear not, truth, and great joy.
As he was ministering in the Holy of Holies for the annual sacrifice, Zacharias was visited by an angel. I'm sure his first thought at the angel's appearance was, "Uh, oh! I'm dead! I've done something wrong." The angel's greeting, "Fear not!" addressed his immediate fear, but the angel's promise that Zacharias' barren wife Elizabeth would bear him a son seemed too unbelievable to be true. This was not possible in Zacharias' mind. The angel said this son would be the Elijah to prepare the way for the Messiah. This was too much for poor Zacharias, and, for his unbelief, the angel left him speechless until his son's birth.
I think Zacharias' unbelief was a problem of failing to see God's promise as Truth. Already distracted with the deep disappointment of childlessness, he chose his own understanding over the supernatural promise of God when, with an angel standing before him, the most believable and reasonable thing was to believe the angel. The question is, "What is true?" or, really, "WHO is truth?"
Here, Isaiah 8 12b-14a, comes to the fore: "And you will not fear what they fear or be in dread of it. It is the LORD of hosts whom you should regard as holy. And He shall be your fear, and He shall be your dread. Then He shall become a sanctuary." (NASB)
Today's science says "No" to the supernatural. God says, "I AM." Who is telling the truth? Whom do you trust?
Gabriel appeared to Mary. "Fear not!" Mary believed the angel's words though she did not fully understand. When there was a very real truth growing inside her, she trusted through the whispers and rumors.
As Joseph pondered the unbelievable story of his pregnant betrothed, Mary, an angel appeared with, "Fear not!" Joseph chose to trust the truth of the angel's message in spite of the scornful eyes and wagging tongues of the neighbors.
The angel hosts suddenly appeared in the sky to some shepherds in their Bethlehem fields. The former quiet and silent night became anything but for them. "Fear not! Great news! A Savior is born! Go see! Go tell!" And the angel hosts sang, "Glory to God in the highest!"
The shepherds believed the angel's story. They went to town and found the baby just as the angels had told them. They told everyone the truth of the great glad tidings. "And the shepherds went back glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them." Luke 2:20 (NASB)
Fear the God who can; fear not the world that cannot.
That's the Truth!
Glory to God!
Joy to the World!