DEVOTIONAL: Don’t Be Afraid

Do not be afraid.  – Luke 1:13 (ESV)

A group of ninth graders studying world religions was asked, “What do you think is the most common command in the Bible?” Answers were varied, including some that aren’t even in the Bible at all. “Thou shalt not kill.” “Thou shalt not drink alcohol.” “Thou shalt go to church on a regular basis.” “Thou shalt not have sex outside of marriage.”

However, many are surprised to hear that the most frequent command in the Bible is, “Do not be afraid.” In fact, even though Christmas cards and carols tell us this is a season for love, cheer, merriment, and peace on earth, fear haunted many at the first Christmas.

As Christian blogger Carla Gasser asks, “Who was afraid in the Christmas Story?

“Simple Answer: Everyone!”

In fact, there are four examples of “fear not” in the Christmas story, all involving angels. For us modern people, we may think of angels as Tinkerbell-like fairies, but in the Bible, they appeared as terrifying, mighty beings.

Zechariah and his wife were godly, but elderly and childless. He went in to the temple to pray, and an angel told him his wife would have a son, who was to become John the Baptist, cousin of Jesus. “And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John” (Luke 1:12-13 ESV).

Mary was about the age of a 9th or 10th grader, pledged to be married, when Gabriel appeared: “‘Don’t be afraid, Mary,’ the angel told her, ‘for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!'” (Luke 1:30-33 NTL).

Learning that his unmarried, virgin fiancée Mary was pregnant, Joseph must have been thrown for a loop. Into his confusion an angel appeared in a dream. “‘Joseph, son of David,’ the angel said, ‘do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit'” (Matt. 1:20b NLT).

Finally, a group of shepherds, who were on the bottom of their society’s totem pole, had their quiet night shift interrupted by an angelic visitor. “An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger’” (Matt. 2:9-12 NIV).

As we enter a new year, there is no shortage of things to be worried about.

Take the next step: Each time you feel fear and worry rising up in your chest, remind yourself: “The Bible says, ‘Don’t be afraid.'”

***

Go Deeper: Read Carla Gasser’s devotional here.

S.D.G./S.G.D.

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