Fear Not - Christmas from the Scriptures

I want to thank the Men' s Club for again inviting the Adult Bible Study to join with you for breakfast. This may be a little early in Advent to explore Christmas from the Scriptures, but as we know from Christmas movies on Thanksgiving day, the Macy's parade and mobs at the mall, Christmas starts on Thanksgiving and roars on until December 28th when the exchanges are finished. Finally, time for Peace on Earth.

Thanksgiving night the Sears Family Theater presented McCauley Caulkin in Home Alone, the new American Christmas classic joining Jimmy Stewart and It's a wonderful life. For you who remember the movie, an eight year old boy is unintentionally abandoned in his sumptuous home by his family who fly to Paris for Christmas vacation. Withal the pratfalls and sentiment, there is a deep truth in the film. The two turning points come first when Kevin overcomes his fear of the loneliness and dark and faces his attackers, and later when Kevin overcomes his fear of the bearded neighbor with the menacing snow shovel, and becomes an instrument of reconciliation by encouraging this neighbor to overcome his fear of rejection and make peace with his son.
The message of peace and love following the casting out of fear is important. And this is what we will talk about this morning. But isn't Thanksgiving night extending the Christmas season a little? In a sense, an extended Christmas season is okay. We really don't know the exact day or even the month of Jesus' birth. Scholars suspect the time around winter solstice was picked because that is the darkest time of the year. This was a time of fearfulness. As the sun got lower and lower on the horizon, there was no certainty it would come back. The pagans typically had a holy day featuring lights and green things hoping the gods would reverse the growing darkness and bring back the light. The early Church incorporated this timing, many believe, because potential converts were already worshipping at this time, which made the transition to Christianity easier. The Tannenbaum and the Yule Log derive from this missionary technique.

There are no Christmas trees in scripture.

What is the Christmas message from Scripture? First some background. In our Bible Study we've been studying Revelation, the last book of the New Testament. This is a mysterious book which recaps human history from a spiritual perspective. When we study it we understand the beginning, but often get lost as the mysteries unfold. If we persist, the last two chapters give us an overwhelming picture ofHeaven. It's not our purpose this morning to look at this glorious picture of Heaven -although I commend the last few chapters of Revelation to you for a view of where, hopefully, you are headed.
What is important for this Christmas Bible Study, is a look at who gets stranded outside the twelve pearl gates. Eight types of people are shut out of Heaven.
Revelation 21:8

But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars--their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. Isn't that peculiar? Seven we can understand.
But, the cowardly? The King James version translates "the cowardly" as "the fearful." The first and most surprising sin is cowardice, being afraid. And that brings us to the Christmas message from Scripture: DO NOT BE AFRAID.

We are familiar with Love, Peace and Joy as the end of the message, but let us look at what comes first: DO NOT BE AFRAID.

The Christmas story begins as Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist is at work in the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. The angel Gabriel appears and speaks.
Luke 1: 13

But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard,' and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John,
14 And thou shalt have joy and gladness,' and many shall rejoice at his birth.
Zechariah did not believe the angel. For his pains he was struck dumb until after John's birth.
MARY Luke 1 :26 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,
27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary .
28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.
30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.
31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.
...38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her. Mary did not question the angel.
JOSEPH Matthew 1: 18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.
19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily. 20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.
21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. 22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, 23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and
shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. 24 Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: 25 and knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.

Joseph did not question the angel.

Luke 2:8
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.
9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
10 But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.
11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." 15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one
another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about. "
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.
17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child.

The shepherds did not question the angel.
Here, four times the angel of the Lord spoke to Mankind announcing the advent of the Messiah. These passages are so familiar we often miss the first message given by the
angel. Fear Not! This is not just a clearing of the angelic throat. It is a command. Do not be afraid Fear Not.
You might say, well, they were startled and afraid because an angel showed up. Who wouldn't be afraid? But as we will see from the scriptures, Old Testament, and New, from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Moses, David, the prophets, the Gospels and Letters, the message is repeated.
The natural human condition is FEAR, and our Lord tells us, DO NOT BE AFRAID, so that we can experience the good news of Christmas.

Genesis God to Abraham: 15: 1 After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: l am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.
To Isaac: 24 And the LORD appeared unto him the same night, and said, I am the God of Abraham thy father: fear not, for I am with thee, and will bless thee, and multiply thy seed for my servant Abraham's sake.
To Jacob, who was named Israel: 46:2 And God spake unto Israel in the visions of the night, and said, Jacob, Jacob. And he said, Here am I.
3 And he said, I am God, the God of thy father: fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will there make of thee a great nation:
4 I will go down with thee into Egypt;
To the people through Moses Exodus 20 Moses said to the people, "Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning." And again in Deuteronomy 1 :21 Behold, the LORD thy God hath set the land before thee: go up and possess it, as the LORD God of thy fathers hath said unto thee; fear not, neither be discouraged.
Deut. 31: 6 Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; HE WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU NOR FORSAKE YOU.
Through Samuel the prophet l Samuel12:20 And Samuel said unto the people, Fear not: ye have done all this wickedness: yet turn not aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart;
David to his son Solomon 1Chronicles 28: 20 And David said to Solomon his son, Be strong and of good courage, and do it: fear not, nor be dismayed: for the LORD God, even my God, will be with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee, until thou hast finished all the work for the service of the house of the LORD .
Isaiah 35: 4 Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompense; he will come and save you.
5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.
43:1 But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.
Luke 5:10 And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men.
John 12: 15 "Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey's colt."
I John 4:18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, ...The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
19 We love because he first loved us.
Revelations 1: 17 And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:
18 I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.
In closing, here is a lake story written for us Skaneateleans:
(Matt. 8:24) Jesus and the disciples are out on a boat, when a sudden violent storm comes up. The lake gets turbulent, waves start to swamp the boat. Jesus is asleep through all this. The disciples are frightened and wake Jesus, saying, "Lord, save us! We're going to drown." Jesus says. "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" Then with a word he calms the sea and the wind.

The natural human condition is FEAR, and Fear must be overcome before we can experience the good news of Christmas. The good news? Joy to the world, the Lord has come. GOD IS WITH US and will never leave us. That is the Good News. Don't be afraid to believe, and don't be afraid to spread the word. Let's not be like Zechariah, so learned, religiously observant and worldly-wise that we are fearful and do not believe the angel. Better be simple, as Joseph, Mary and the shepherds. Believe the Christmas angel and DO NOT BE AFRAID. God is with us and will never leave us nor forsake us.

    back gort.net home top of page