Fear not. 2:10-11
Most of us remember our fathers as very powerful figures. They were the ones who controlled our world, protecting us, caring for us, straightening us up. I can see my father now. There he stands so big and strong - harsh yet loving.
My father, in his last years, was a very sick man. He faced the consequences of a life spent abusing his body. He smoked too heavily, he drank too much. He did it to protect himself from the pressures of business, but as a kid I never did understand. When you're young you can be very self righteous and very blind. In his last months with us he said something that shook me quite a bit. He was talking about his illness and he went on to drop a bombshell. He said, "I'm scared". Scared! That big man actually scared. I thought I was the only person scared about things. It's quite a revelation to find that your dad is scared, afraid, filled with fear.
I suppose there are two types of people in this world. Those who are scared and show it and those who are scared and hide it.
When I was a theological student we had to serve for a number of weeks in a psychiatric hospital. We visited the wards, counseled, and joined in the group-therapy sessions. I always wondered why the patients always wanted to spill out the most intimate of details concerning their past life. Their failings, weaknesses, their fears, it all came out. At times, in very embarrassing detail. It was as though they were trying to punish themselves, a kind of self flagellation. I think they hated themselves. I think they hated the fact that they were weak and fallible. These fearful little people overwhelmed by fear.
Then there are those who seem fearless, but of course, I'm not convinced. It's just that some people are good at bluffing.
So you see fear stalks all of us. It's just that some hide it better than others.
i] The fear of danger. My father was afraid of death. I can understand that. I know the same fear. The fear of dying, of pain and darkness. One of the greatest saints I have known was afraid of dying. Maybe she was more honest than most. Everyone quoted the great verses of assurance to her, but what she probably needed was someone to tell her that they had the same fear. But then Christians don't fear death do they? Why even Mary probably had that same fear as she set out for Bethlehem. Riding a donkey in her state wasn't the safest of activities.
ii] The fear of insignificance. Insignificance, to be nothing, I suspect this was king Herod's fear. Do you notice the way we react when someone tries to take us down, to do us in? All the defence mechanisms are activated, the juices flow and we go for the throat. That's if we've got juices of course. The fear of insignificance, the fear of living with insignificance, now that's a real fear.
iii] The fear of change. Then there is the fear of powers beyond our control. The fear that life could get out of hand, that we may get caught up in events that we are unable to control. The shepherds were overwhelmed with this type of fear when the Angel of the Lord appeared to them while they were keeping watch over their flocks. The ancients were always afraid of spiritual forces intruding into their lives, shaping their destinies. We, on the other hand, tend to be more pragmatic. Will we have a job after the holls? Will we still be married in a years time? Or will the circumstances of life destroy our little secure world? The fear of change, the fear of coping within changed circumstances. Yes, fear indeed.
Freedom from fear
Can we find any freedom from fear, or must fear remain part of the human condition? Debilitating fear, constantly making our lives ineffective. Oppressive fear, constantly enslaving our actions. Can we find freedom from fear?
Take note of the text. A Savior is born, someone to rescue us from fear. Yes, someone to rescue us from the fear of danger, insignificance and change. Consider how Biblical truth confronts fear:
i] Danger. "Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that lives, and was dead; and , behold, I am alive for evermore." Rev.1:17-18. The fear of death is destroyed in the one who has destroyed the sting of death. This truth confounds the fear of danger.
ii] Insignificance. "Fear not, I am with you. Do not be dismayed for I am your God." Isaiah.41:10. We may be regarded by many as of little value. We may have a low self esteem. There may be times when we curl up in the face of personal affront. Yet if Jesus regards us as his, if he has moved toward us, then we have become the most significant creature upon this earth. This truth confounds the fear of insignificance.
iii] Change. "The very hairs of your head are numbered. Fear not therefore, You are of more value than many sparrows". Math.10:30-31. The circumstances of life may ebb and flow, but God's hand will never leave us. He is involved in the intimate details of life, he cries with us, he rejoices with us. This truth confounds the fear of change.