Now we continue with the last two kinds of fear that Christmas is designed to destroy.
The fear that you are helpless: Luke 1:29-33 But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”
Mary’s fear of the future was justified. She seemed trapped in a cruel drama. She felt the crushing blow of forces she could not control. We can see ourselves in it right now. There are a million new ways for modern life to make us feel helpless. Right now we face the specter of government out of control. There are only two ways left to see life today. It is either a cruel joke or it is a plan that will bulldoze whatever boulders and fallen trees that try to block our path. Here is how we can relate to her fear. The first is that we feel that our government has turned against us. The obscene greed of CEO’s plundered Wall Street and our retirement accounts with it and our leaders turned a blind eye to it.
This is what Mary and Joseph felt when Caesar Augustus’ law forced them to return to Bethlehem to pay taxes. This was not favor this was tyranny! Yet a closer look reveals that government edicts must surrender to divine providence. Prophecy trumps policy! This was not a case of Mary being forced to go to Bethlehem but of Caesar being manipulated into writing a law that would fulfill the words of Micah 5:2 But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me, The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.”
God holds the strings not government. He sets one up and takes another down. The favored ones live on a plane of protection that is not known to mortal man. Everything that comes at you must come through divine permission…that is favor! Favor is a sense of peace that God is in control, not in a distant passive way but in an aggressive and immediate way that works to our advantage and for our good. Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
The fear of interrupting your schedule to celebrate: Luke 2: 8 “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”
The story of the shepherds is a story of men out on the job, taut with tension, facing the threats of poachers, Romans and wild animals. They were watching their flocks knowing at any moment they might lose their livelihood. Many of you can feel the drain of the long hours you must work. Money pressures the keep us running. We dare not stop lest we fall hopelessly behind. The very idea of taking time out to celebrate can strike fear in our heart.
But, you also know that there is a deeper voice calling. Here is what you need to see: THIS IS CAUSE FOR CELEBRATION! There is nothing that the enemy wants to steal more from you than celebration. It is the goal of the devil to make stop rejoicing. There is a critical difference between joy and rejoicing. Joy is the emotion of victory, rejoicing is the victory party. As we said at the beginning of this letter, Christmas is an interruption. The message of the angel was simple: “you have to go and celebrate. Go! We will watch the sheep.”
Jesus Himself modeled this truth for us when He wanted to celebrate the last supper. The disciples had no idea how to accommodate Him. After all they were in hiding because of threats on Jesus. They thought, “Can we risk such rejoicing in this dark time and even if we wanted to how can we do it? The Lord simply said “go to this address and tell this man we need his upstairs banquet room and he will give it to you.” Bingo! They had a party hall.
If you take the time to rejoice this Christmas, God will not only provide the party, He will give you an abiding peace and joy you will throughout your life. After Christmas you must reenter the theater of the absurd and see the rest of the play, but so what. Now you know better. Now you know what the caroler meant when he wrote: “Joyful all ye nations rise, join the triumph of the skies!”