“What is your greatest or most distressing problem?”
If your answer to this question is the same as the majority of those responding to it in a nationwide survey, it is “anxiety,” another word for fear.
Fear is an enemy of us all, bringing depression, stifling ability, draining energy, diminishing courage and robbing life of adventure and success. No wonder “Fear not” was the favorite greeting of angels sent to announce the birth of the One who came to bring peace.
When Gabriel appeared to Mary, revealing her part in the coming birth of Christ, she was frightened until he spoke these two angelic faith builders that announced he was there to let her know she had found favor with God. There was nothing for Mary to worry about. Her fears were groundless. She was to be part of a miracle. Her son would be the long awaited Savior.
Only one verse in the Bible is taken to tell about Joseph’s discovery that his bride-to-be was with child, but the emotional trauma this disturbing news brought to him must have been devastating.
Joseph’s engagement to lovely Mary had undoubtedly caused him to start building dreams about their life together. He was a carpenter and would be able to provide his new bride with beautiful things made with his own hands. He had longed for the day he and Mary would become one, but now his world had come crashing down. Mary would give birth to a child and he would not be the father. At this distressing time, an angel was sent to comfort and give guidance to this brokenhearted man.
Calling Joseph by name, the angel went immediately to the heart of his misery. Beginning with the favorite angelic fear fighter, “Fear not,” he explained that the virgin birth of Mary’s child would be a miracle planned by the Lord (Matthew 1:20; Isa.7:14).
What good news! The opposite of Joseph’s fears was in the making. And this is often true for us all. Too often, we live as if Murphy’s Law (whatever can go wrong will) is divine, expecting the worst and allowing this pessimistic premise to fill our hearts with fear; forgetting that God makes everything work together for good in the lives of those who love and trust Him (Romans 8:28). What Joseph had seen as the end of his dreams as a husband turned out to be the answer to his deepest spiritual needs as a man. His fears had been a waste of time because an eternal plan was emerging that would bless him and millions of others.
On that first Christmas night, the angelic message given to frightened shepherds caring for their sheep on the hills outside Bethlehem was the same as the one given to Mary and Joseph: “Fear not!”
These frightened men would learn, as can we in our trembling times, that the end of fear and the birth of joy are both wrapped up in Mary’s boy. So when your greatest or most distressing problem rears its ugly head, remember the favorite Christmas greeting of angels given on that holy night so long ago: “Fear Not!” And relax in the reason for the season: “Unto you is born a Savior, who is the Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).
Roger Campbell was an author, broadcaster and columnist who was a pastor for 22 years. We can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.