Good News of Great Joy, Not Fear

Every year, I unwrap my little bamboo angel choir and lovingly arrange them near my nativity set. While living in Indonesia, I was always on the lookout for unique, well-made items I could use for decorations or to give as gifts to family and partners. Imagine my delight one year when I discovered these hand-carved figures. Each one stands erect sporting a different instrument. While not a nativity set in themselves, they remind me of the involvement of the angels throughout the Christmas story.

First an angel of the Lord appears to Zechariah while he is performing his once-in-a-lifetime duty in the Holy of Holies (Luke 1:11–13). Then Gabriel, the archangel, comes to a young girl named Mary in the town of Nazareth (Luke 1:26–31). After this her fiancé, Joseph, sees an angel in a dream (Matthew 1:20–21). And then a group of field-bound shepherds are visited by a heavenly host of angels (Luke 2:8–12).

Each angel brings an announcement of good news, but they preface it with “Do not be afraid.” Don’t be afraid, your prayers are heard! Don’t be afraid, you are favored! Don’t be afraid, this is a God-thing! Don’t be afraid, this news will bring great joy to all people!

These human players in Jesus’s story need great assurance for, of course, they are fearful—and rightly so. Angelic beings don’t just suddenly appear, let alone speak. Miraculous births are rare. Additionally, what is being asked of them requires great faith and courage. The angels reassure them there is no need to fear because that which is promised will bring great joy.

Zechariah, your wife will bear a son, and you are to call him John. Mary, you will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. Joseph, your wife will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. Shepherds, a savior has been born to you, the Messiah, the Lord.

Zechariah and his wife finally receive the child they have longed for. Mary gets the honor of raising the Son of God. Joseph gains the privilege of partnering with Mary to provide a home for the Messiah. And the shepherds are the first to know of Jesus’s birth and spread the news to others.

I totally relate to their need for assurance. Even though I know I’m commemorating something good—Jesus’s birth and the salvation he brings me—fear clouds my celebrations. Fear that I won’t have enough this Christmas. Fear that my loved ones may be taken from me. Fear of yet another year of going without what I want or feel I need. Fear of being alone and far from loved ones. Fear of not finding that special ingredient needed to make our favorite family tradition. Fear of the repercussions of sharing the true meaning of Christmas.

Fear also masks the joy that God has prepared for us. God knows that even if the news is good, the human response will be fear, so he quickly reassures us of his presence. Note that the first thing the angel says to Mary after his greeting is “The Lord is with you.” This promise often accompanies the command to not be afraid. The antidote to fear is the presence of God. And “God-with-us” provides the joy we need to embrace Christmas and all that this season brings.

As I display my bamboo chorale again this year, I hear the voice of my Savior saying, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20 NIV). Don’t let fear inhibit your celebration of the Savior’s birth. As you set up your nativity set, find joy in his presence.

What good news can you rejoice in this season?

How might fear be masking your joy?

Image submitted by Eva Burkholder

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