Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
The command, “Fear not!” appears 170 times in the King James Version of the Bible. It seems as if man needs constant reassurance from the Lord. But that makes sense. Man was not created to be fearful. After all, Adam and Eve were the crown of God’s creation. Into their hands God gave mastery over every plant and animal, so Adam and Eve had nothing to fear from creatures that would send us fleeing in terror. They knew nothing of serial killers or terrorists. They had no need to worry about the forces of nature. And they knew nothing of sin. It wasn’t until they disobeyed the Word of God—until they were goaded by the satanic serpent to doubt the Law of God and partake of the forbidden fruit—that they knew what fear was. They hid themselves in the Garden, sewing garments to cover the shame they had never felt before. They finally knew fear—and it was not the beasts nor the plants that caused this fear. In their sin, they feared God. Adam said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.” In disobeying the Word of God, in partaking of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, humanity learned how to be afraid, and we’ve been afraid ever since. We’re afraid of snakes and mice and spiders and lions and tigers and bears. We’re afraid of ice storms, hurricanes, blizzards, tornadoes, too much rain and not enough rain. We’re afraid of the pains in our bodies and the ailments that afflict our minds. And, most of all, like Adam and Eve, we are terrified of the righteous wrath and justice of a holy and omnipotent God.
It is to His fearful children that God sends His messengers. Angels appear to Mary and Joseph, to Zechariah, to shepherds, and to countless others in the Bible. But these are holy messengers of God who manifest His power and holiness, and sinners cringe and fall on their faces before the holiness of God. So before they can share God’s Gospel message with them, the angels must tell their hearers, “Fear not!” Do not be afraid. I’m here with good news for you from God! To Zechariah the angel gives the joyful message that his son John, who would be born to him and his wife when they were beyond childbearing age, would prepare the way for the Savior promised to Adam and Eve. He would proclaim the salvation and peace God would bring to His people through the forgiveness of their sins. To Mary and Joseph, the angels gave the message that they would be the earthly parents of the promised Savior. And then, finally, the angels told the shepherds of the birth of the promised Savior, the one who would bring peace on earth and God’s good will to the fear-filled hearts of sinners by bearing the price of their sin on the terrible, terrifying cross.
Sending angels is no longer God’s preferred method of delivering good news to His people. But He hasn’t stopped sending messengers. Instead of sending angels who instill fear just by their appearance, He now sends humble, sinful men. But still, their message is, “Do not be afraid!” You no longer have any reason to fear the righteous wrath of God, for your Savior Jesus—who is Immanuel, God in the flesh—has come, and He has suffered and died bearing that wrath in your place. He rose up in triumph, leaving your fear behind in the tomb, so you would be free to “serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of [your] life.”
My brothers and sisters in Christ, beloved children of God, it is my privilege and pleasure as a humble messenger of God to bring you good tidings of great joy, which is for you, for your neighbor, for all people. Born to you is your King, your Temple, your Refuge and Strength. Born to you is your Savior. He is Christ the Lord. Do not be afraid! In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.