“Do not be afraid.” We see this phrase recur throughout the Christmas story and it’s easy to gloss over without fully comprehending it.
At Christmastime we tend to focus on the joy and gladness we feel at the birth of our Saviour rather than phrases like this. But for a moment, let’s think about fear.
When the angel visited Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds it’s understandable the first reaction they had was fear. Fear is an emotional response to impending danger, evil, or pain, whether the threat is real or imagined, hidden or obvious.
Mary: “Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be,” (Luke 1:29 NIV).
Joseph: “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly,” (Matthew 1:18–19 NASB).
The shepherds: “And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened,” (Luke 2:9).
It is fitting that the angel’s response to their fear was, “Do not be afraid.” Jesus came to earth to do away with fear rooted in the sin that separates man from God and has done so since Eden. Christmas is God’s answer to our fears.
Mary: “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 bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus,’” (Luke 1:30–31).
Joseph: “But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins,’” (Matthew 1:20–21).
The shepherds: “But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord,’” (Luke 2:10–11).
The angel focused on Christ as the reason not to fear.
Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds had an emotional response to the angel—they thought of themselves and the danger they were imagining. The angel’s response turned their attention toward Christ. As a result Mary willingly became the mother of Jesus, Joseph disregarded the social stigma and took a pregnant Mary as his wife, and the shepherds became joyful messengers of the Saviour’s birth.
We all encounter fear. Some are healthy and keep us safe while others are more major like fear of death, being alone, sickness, and losing control. The angel’s words to Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds remind us Christ, in all His Person and work, is God’s answer to our major fears. His life, death, resurrection, and abiding indwelling presence through the Holy Spirit provide all we need to be free from fear.
Jesus is God’s gift to save us from sin and the fear it brings. We just need to place our faith in Him as our Saviour, trust His Word, and obey.
When we trust God’s Word we can be confident in what it says. Hebrews 13:5 says, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.” Because of this promise we need not fear an uncertain future—He loves us with an infinite love and He is in control of everything. We don’t have to fear death; He has secured our victory over it and given us eternal life (Romans 8).
And now we have one more reason for Christmas joy.