Do not be afraid
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.
Bible Lesson: Matthew 1:18-25; (verse 20)
After going to a new school for few days, Anugrah complained his father about a senior boy who regularly slaps him just before his entry to the school every morning. He became discouraged and depressed. So his father personally went to drop him at school. After dropping him, the father stood at a distanced watched the situation. But this time scenario was different. As Anugrah was about to enter inside the gate, that senior student approached towards him to hit but instead, Anugrah gave a tight slap to that boy and turned towards his father and loudly uttered, ‘goodbye father and thanks for dropping me to school.’ By seeing Anugrah’s father, the boy got frightened and ran away and one can imagine the confidence and courage Anugrah developed in the presence of his father.
The story of Christmas is likewise. Mary got engaged to Joseph who was an obedient servant of God. Before they came together, Mary became pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph, being a human being was confused and afraid of this news. His thoughts bothered him about Virgin Mary becoming pregnant. So he decided to divorce her quietly without going through judicial proceeding because that would disgrace her publically. While he was confused, the angel of the Lord appeared in his dream, encouraged him not to be afraid and further revealed the purpose of God in sending His Son. When he woke up, he obeyed what the angel of the Lord commanded and he took Mary home as his wife. He trusted God’s plan and all his fear disappeared.
Matthew begins Christmas discourse with, ‘do not be afraid…’ Similarly, in Luke 1:30, when the angel of the Lord appeared before Mary, he said to her ‘do not be afraid…’ Doubt and fear are the foremost barriers that try to keep the person away from God and His plans. Many Christians couldn’t contribute much to God’s kingdom because of the fear. The Word of God assures us with His courage and strength. Principles of God’s kingdom are contrary to the practices of the world. When God chose Joshua to be the leader of the Israel, He assured him of His presence and protection (Jos. 1:5). He further asked Him, to ‘be strong and of good courage.’ Our God not only commands us to be courageous but He himself becomes the source of strength and courage at the time of our needs. He removes all our fear and anxiety but we need to trust in Him. It only happens when we pour our hearts to Him. Biblical scholars have claimed that there are 365 verses in the Bible that say, ‘Fear not’ and through this we God’s concern for each day is assured for us. Paul writes to Timothy, For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (2 Tim. 2:7).
Matthew mentions two names for the Son of God in the passage. First one is Jesus – for He will save His people from their sins and the second one is Immanuel – which means ‘God is with us.’ Both the names depict the attributes of God which act as weapons to overcome fear. There is a powerful significance attached to the name of Jesus. The name Jesus delivers us from the bondage of sin – For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 6:23). The apostles performed miracles and cast out demons in His name. Through the name of Jesus, we are able to access to the Father in heaven. Immanuel assures of God’s protection from the evil one – If God is for us, who can be against us?… Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? (Rom. 8: 31-33). Trusting in Jesus assures us with His salvation and overall protection. King David in Psalm 34:4, asserts that God delivers us from all fears (that consists of death, disease, identity, shame, loss of job, separation, rejection, uncertainty about future, failure, the consequence of sin etc). Once we lay our trust in Him by claiming His promises in our lives, our burden of fears will be taken away. This will also help us to carry out the purpose of God in this world through us. Why we still remember Mary, Joseph, shepherds and wise men during Christmas? Because in spite of all odd situations they trusted in God’s Word and allowed God’s plan to be fulfilled in their lives. Are we ready to do trust Him in this Christmas – then Do not be afraid! in anything.
“Fear not,” said he, for mighty dread, Had seized their troubled mind;
“Glad tidings of great joy I bring, To you and all mankind.”
[Nahum Tate from While Shepherds watched their flocks by night…]