The Christmas story usually isn’t thought of as a scary story. And yet in the Gospels, a phrase that is repeated over and over is: “Do not be afraid.” It was one of the first things an angel told Zechariah, Mary, Joseph and the shepherds. They got scared when all of a sudden an angel appeared. You’d probably be scared too if a big strong creature who was clearly not of this world came out of nowhere and started talking to you.
People getting scared when God comes near has been going on since Adam and Eve. After they sinned, when they heard God coming they tried to hide from Him out of fear. The sinful, fallen human race has been fearful ever since. Our guilty conscience gets scared in the presence of holiness. It is right for a person to be fearful in the presence of God if their sin has not been dealt with. It is dangerous foolishness to be unforgiven but not fearful before the holy, almighty God.
“Do not be afraid” is a good news declaration that God has come to put an end to the problem that produces all the fear. After telling Joseph to not be afraid the angel let him know the reason why. “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Jesus went to the cross and paid the penalty in full for all of our sins. He satisfied the demands of the law. Because of the cross, the fear of judgment hangs over our head no more. We have been set free from the fear of facing what we deserve.
Jesus has come to change our attitude toward the news that God is here. By faith in Christ, God is no longer the Judge who scares us. Instead we can now know Him as the loving Father who cares for us. When we are trusting in Jesus we are not fearful about God coming near. The good news that Jesus is Immanuel – “God with us” – brings peace. The Lord of lords loves us and is with us. We don’t face the challenges of life alone. The One who has conquered sin and death is willing to go through life with us.
The world is constantly trying to scare us and make us prisoners of fear. Many people are slaves to anxiety and worry. The world tells us to be afraid of who and what is coming. We don’t need to fear what might come because we know Who has come. The Son of God has come to set us free from the prison of fear. “Do not be afraid.” The Prince of Peace has come.