How many times is “fear not” spoken in the Biblical Christmas story? Zacharias, Mary, and the shepherds were afraid of angelic beings which suddenly appeared before them. Joseph was afraid to marry his betrothed because the child she was carrying wasn’t his. Herod was afraid of losing his power. The Christmas story is riddled with people who were afraid. But, the story of Christmas isn’t one of fear, but rather of victory.
An unwed mother, Mary now faced the task of telling her “good news” to her fiancé. We don’t get to see this conversation, but I can imagine the shock, the disappointment, the feeling of betrayal Joseph must have felt. Yet, Mary rejoiced. With all the uncertainty of life, joy and praise flowed from her lips.
My soul exalts the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave;
For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed.
For the Mighty One has done great things for me;
And holy is His name.
(Luke 1: 46-49)
Joseph must have been overwhelmed by his current circumstances. The obvious choice, the most culturally acceptable plan, was to have Mary publicly humiliated and stoned for her offense. Yet, Joseph had chosen another path. One that would keep Mary safe and would allow him to go on with his life. As he lay down to rest, he seemed to finally know what to do regarding Mary. But, God had other plans. An angel confirmed the truth about the child Mary would birth. And the Truth changes everything.
We see a couple committed to a life sure to bring ridicule from their community and danger to their doorstep. The dismay of what was happening around them was gone. Satan’s hold over them was broken. Comforted by the truth of who this baby was they stepped from fear into joy and accepted what God had for them.
When I sing the first verse of God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman, these are my thoughts. But it wasn’t just comfort and joy for those in the original story, it is for all of us. Christ came to save us. There is no reason to dismay, no need to fear, He is our comfort and joy.
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
God rest ye merry, gentlemen, let nothing you dismay,
Remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day;
To save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray.
O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy;
O tidings of comfort and joy.
In Bethlehem, in Israel, this bless’d Babe was born,
And laid within a manger upon this bless’d morn;
The which His mother Mary did nothing take in scorn.
From God our heavenly Father a bless’d angel came;
And unto certain shepherds brought tidings of the same;
How that in Bethlehem was born the Son of God by name.
‘Fear not, then,’ said the angel, ‘Let nothing you afright
This day is born a Savior of a pure Virgin bright,
To free all those who trust in Him from Satan’s power and might.’
The shepherds at those tidings rejoiced much in mind,
And left their flocks a-feeding in tempest, storm and wind,
And went to Bethl’em straightaway this bless’d Babe to find.
But when to Bethlehem they came where our dear Savior lay,
They found Him in a manger where oxen feed on hay;
His mother Mary kneeling unto the Lord did pray.
Now to the Lord sing praises all you within this place,
And with true love and brotherhood each other now embrace;
This holy tide of Christmas all others doth deface.
God bless the ruler of this house, and send him long to reign,
And many a merry Christmas may live to see again;
Among your friends and kindred that live both far and near.
That God send you a happy new year, happy new year,
And God send you a happy new year.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. II Cor. 4:7-11
Because of the great work of Christ, I can truly send you tidings of comfort and joy this season and throughout the years to come.