Should I eat this fruitcake not knowing what’s inside?
Who’s brave enough to put together toys that come with no instructions?
Who wants to face rabid shoppers at 3:00 am on Black Friday?
Can I stand another Christmas with my family who end up either fighting, or tiptoeing around each other with frosty cordiality?
Why do so many people dread Christmas? Fear seems to be a common denominator. We fear overspending, loneliness, and congregating in the same room with estranged family. We fear taking risks, loss of love, getting old, gaining weight, hopelessness, and the unknown.
Isn’t this supposed to be the season for good will? Where is “joy to the world” and “peace on earth?” Is it realistic to think we can celebrate Christmas without fear? Is it possible to celebrate Christmas when genocide, natural disasters, evil, and poverty are on every side?
Fear was around that first Christmas too. In fact, every major character of the nativity had their own set of fears and anxieties. Some, gave in to them, some looked beyond them, and others left them behind. The difference was how Jesus factored in.
Fear of Rejection
Mary was troubled by the angel’s opening line, yet her only question was a scientific query, “How will this be…since I am a virgin? (Luke 1:34).” Unlike anything we might have said in such a moment, Mary just wanted to know how God was going to do it. After He told her she went on from there with faith and bravery that boggle the mind. She must have had fears and doubt, but her words reveal only complete trust in her Lord.
She laid down her preconceived (couldn’t resist the pun) ideas about what she wanted in life. She looked beyond the gossip of the moment to the place of honor she would have throughout history. And perhaps most admirably, she kept her comments to herself when most of us would have leaned into the limelight, and expressed our own opinions.
Fear of Being Unneeded
Then there’s Joseph. How important did he feel as a husband and father? He wasn’t Jesus’ dad, or even mentioned in prophesies about the Messiah. We don’t have a single quote from his lips in the Bible and he completely drops off the page after Jesus’ twelfth year.
Yet, he willingly did his part - he got Mary safely to Bethlehem, delivered this God-formed baby without any training or help, moved to Egypt in the middle of the night to escape Herod, and raised Jesus as his own. If Joseph did fear insignificance, he overcame those feelings to do what had to be done, without any fanfare or complaint.
Fear of the Unknown
The shepherds were literally minding their own business, the night they received news of the Messiah. Unwelcome in social situations, and unaccustomed to polite company, they might have been afraid to arrive unannounced at the birthplace of a King. Yet, emboldened by their heavenly invitation, they ventured into unknown territory and left the stable with a story to tell.
Fear of Missing Out
The wise men, or astrologers, who came to Bethlehem looking for the new King, had one great concern. After all their effort and travel they didn’t want to miss the One whose star they had followed for so long. Theologians estimate it may have taken up to three years before they arrived at the house where Mary and Joseph had settled. They never let fear keep them from their goal.
Fear of Giving up the Throne
Of all the characters in this story, King Herod and his followers were the only ones whose fears became reality. More than anything, King Herod was afraid the prophecies would come true and he would lose his throne. He was willing to do anything to ensure the continuation of his rule - including wide-scale infanticide.
The irony is, in murdering all babies under three years of age, he not only revealed his true character, but he fulfilled another of prophecy about Jesus’ birth:
“Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: ‘A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more’” Matthew 2:17-18
This further proved Jesus’ identity as the promised King.
Defeating the Fear Factor
Do you experience any of the same fears these people did? How can we keep fear from ruining the heart of Christmas? Each person in Jesus’ story has something to teach us about facing fear.
From Mary, we can learn to let go of our preconceived expectations regarding – gifts, decorating, family times, church programs etc.
Joseph shows us how to rejoice in being a part of God’s story, even if we don’t have a major role in –family gatherings, gift-giving, and
The shepherds are amazing examples of learning how to be less self-aware. They focused their full attention on Jesus – instead of how they looked to everyone else, and what people thought of them.
The wise men teach us diligence in our search to glimpse the face of God.
Finally, the bad guy in the story. King Herod struggled with the thing which probably troubles us the most - giving up the throne so Jesus can reign supreme. I pray we won’t make the same mistake and give in to fear, but go to Him and bow in worship instead.
Reprinted from The Four Gifts of Christmas, Create Space (c) Beth Vice 2014: http://www.amazon.com/Four-Gifts-Christmas-Readings-December-ebook/dp/B00P8FUCTQ/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1450141784&sr=8-4&keywords=The+Four+gifts+of+Christmas