December 24, 2021
Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The text that I have chosen for this evening’s sermon is the Gospel from St. Luke.
Are you afraid of anything? The dark? Heights? Elevators? Spiders? Many of us are scared of something; it’s a natural response to certain things, events, or people. Halloween can be a scary time for some, but Christmas is pretty safe, isn’t it? I suppose if you’re a baby you might be afraid of Santa Claus, but really is there anything to be afraid of? The Christmas song, The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, mentions “scary ghost stories”, but is the story of Scrooge really all that scary? Nah, especially not my favorite version – the one by the Muppets.
And yet, Christmas can be a time of fear. It’s not the most wonderful time of the year if you’re afraid of being alone for the first Christmas in a lot of years – whether it’s through death, divorce, or some other separation. You’re afraid of your cancer. You’re afraid of your own death. You’re scared by financial troubles or school troubles. And don’t forget Covid which has made people afraid of their own families. This fear has been devastating on individuals, families, and communities.
It’s easy to tell someone, not to be afraid. It’s a lot harder not to be! Fear is a natural emotion goes back to our first parents. Have you ever realized how many of our discussions about life go back to Adam and Eve? Do you remember their first emotion after eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil? While they were ashamed by their nakedness, that’s why they sewed fig leaves into basic covering, there was another emotion – fear. “The LORD God called to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ And Adam said, ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked.’” Their sin made them afraid of God and all the consequences of their sin. Pain in childbirth, the hard work to earn a living, thunderstorms, wild animals, other people. They were afraid. Who wouldn’t have been?
It’s true that there was much to be afraid of once they left the Garden, but God didn’t leave them to the mercy of their fears. First, He promised the Savior who would rescue them from their sins, their fears, all sins consequences. Next, Moses tells us, “The LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.” God covered their fear of being naked and ashamed with clothes. He sent them out into the world covered by His compassion.
God repeatedly sent the message of don’t be afraid to the Old Testament believers. Don’t be afraid of the Egyptians, they’re going to be drowned. Don’t be afraid of invading armies they’ll be stopped! Don’t be afraid not matter what you face. And why didn’t they need to be afraid? Because God was with them! He was at hand to protect them and rescue them. He says, “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.”
Don’t be afraid is also the message of Christmas, for we hear this encouragement time and time again. “Fear not Zechariah! I am an angel of the Lord to give you good news of a son who is the answer to your prayers.” “Fear not Mary! You’ve found favor with God.” “Fear not Joseph! Take Mary for your wife, for she bears in her virgin womb, a child conceived by the Holy Spirit, the one who will rescue the world from its Sin.” Fear not Shepherds! For I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people!” All these Christmas characters were afraid because they were seeing and talking with angels, and angels aren’t the little cherubs we often see. But how were they comforted? How were their fears allayed? By the promise of the Savior, that the Savior was coming, that He had come! God became flesh and dwelt among us, so we don’t need to be afraid of anything.
When God says don’t be afraid, you don’t need to be afraid. I’m not telling you not to be afraid because your fears aren’t valid, but because there is One who is greater than your fears. The fear that Adam and Eve felt, the fear that came down to us, is a fact of life. Another fact of life is that Jesus is the Son of God alive in human flesh. The angels didn’t come with message of anger, judgement, or more things to be afraid of. They came with a message of joy and hope and deliverance. They announced that the Gospel, the first promise of the Savior to Adam and Eve, has been fulfilled.
For two thousand years, Christians have confessed that Jesus is both human and divine, just as He said and proved with His miracles. As a human He experienced hunger, weariness, and yes, even fear. Thirty-three years after His birth, He was praying in the Garden for the Father to find some other way to save this lost world. Surely, there had to be an easier way than scourging, crucifixion, and drinking the cup of His Father’s wrath against all the sin in the world. But there wasn’t, so He gave Himself to the Father’s will and did He had been born to do.
Since Jesus faced His fear and overcame it by trusting in His Father, He will aid you in your times of fear. He has conquered the strife in life. He has faced the fear of death for you. He has defeated death for you. He has faced the fear of loneliness for you. He has faced the fear of Covid for you. He has taken on money troubles, health troubles, work and school troubles, and beat them all. Do you see the pattern?
Trust in the hands of God that hold you tight. The hands that held a favorite toy and His mother’s hands. The hands that hugged and blessed the children. The hands that touched the blind and dead. The hands that were pierced for your transgressions. The resurrected hands, which while still bearing the marks of the nails, rule over all things.
When God says don’t be afraid, you don’t have to be afraid. Again, I know it’s easy for me to say, and hard to do. But this isn’t my advice, it’s God telling you! “Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, as He said.” “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore.” Do you see? Fear not little ones! For Jesus, God in human flesh controls all things. He hears your prayers. He is your deliverer. He says, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.”
If your fears don’t seem to be going away, if God doesn’t seem to be working, it can be hard. It’s in these times that, by God’s grace, we trust that what we fear will not endure. By God’s grace nothing you fear will ever be able to separate you from God. You are in His hands. Listen to one more: “You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off”; fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Every time that God says, “Fear not” in the Bible, He follows it with a promise, with the Gospel. “Fear not, for I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord!” There is no greater joy than the birth of the Savior who was born for you. A Savior who grew up and faced and defeated all that you’re afraid of. Not that you won’t ever be afraid, we all have times. But you can trust that they will not last because you have Jesus, the Son of God in human flesh, the antidote to all your fears.
Now the peace which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen