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  • Writer's pictureKent Chevalier

The Fear of Christmas


Christmas 2023 has come and gone. We are focused on the new year to come. But I want to rewind just one week to remember something unusual about Christmas. 


Fear. That’s right. Fear. 


Building up to that first “Silent Night” that we celebrated a week ago, there was terror, confusion, pain, and blood. Amidst that “O Holy Night,” there was so much uncertainty, struggle, rumors, and consideration of divorce. When “Hark! The Herald Angels…Sang” that first Christmas, it was anything but calm as the announcement of Jesus’ birth broke through the chaos of strained relationships, political division, religious turmoil, and personal brokenness. 


Am I describing the reality of Bethlehem in 4 B.C. or the United States of America in 2023 A.D.? 


Even if you’re not a person of faith, world history has proven that Jesus was indeed born. The recorded eyewitness accounts of the events surrounding his birth were wild, to say the least. But one really stood out to me this past week.


The fear of Christmas.


Luke, the Physician Historian, recorded that Mary was “confused and disturbed” (Luke 1:29) at the news of her pregnancy. She was probably 13 years old, and she’d never been with a man sexually. No doubt she was afraid. No doubt she was concerned for her life in that culture.


Matthew, an eyewitness of Jesus’ life and ministry, recorded that Joseph was so close to walking out on Mary and had “resolved to divorce her quietly.” (Matthew 1:19) No doubt was he afraid of the public humiliation and shame that would accompany this baby.

Dr. Luke recorded that when the shepherds heard the angelic announcement of Jesus’ birth, “They were terrified.” (Luke 2:9)


Confused. Disturbed. Humiliated. Shamed. Divorce. Terror. These are not words we think about at Christmas, but no doubt we feel them. We experience them. We know them well.

To each person or group, the heavenly messenger said, “Do not be afraid.” The angel of the Lord knew they were afraid and called it out. The angel’s presence was enough to knock them back in utter terror, but it’s deeper than just being afraid of the angel. 


I believe the angel is also speaking to the fear of their surrounding circumstances.

If we’re not careful, we can mishear that command. When we read this phrase, “Do not be afraid!” In the Christmas account, we can easily hear our moms saying, “Stop it and go back to bed!” We can hear our dad say something like, “Stop crying, or I’ll give you something to cry about!” A coach screamed, “Get back out there and fight! We don’t back down from anybody!”


This command from the angel was not a reprimand. This command was encouragement in the face of fear. Putting courage into Mary, Joseph, and the Shepherds. The command was followed with a why.


Do not be afraid because…


Mary, do not be afraid because “God has favored you. The Lord is with you.” (Luke 1:30, 35)


Confidence. 


Joseph, “Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife because the child within her will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21)


Purpose.


Shepherds, do not be afraid because “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11)


Hope.


Fear was rampant that first Christmas. Fear was still with us just a week ago. 


What I love about the reality of that first Christmas is that God met people in their fears. Immanuel, God with us. He didn’t discard the confusion, pain, shame, and division. No, God chose to be with them in their fears. He gave them confidence, purpose, and hope as they journeyed with their fear.


God is still doing the same thing today.


I don’t know what kind of fear you faced this past Christmas. I don’t know what you’re going through right now as we enter 2024, but I do know we’re all carrying something that is causing fear. Family strife. Financial problems. Career confusion. Health issues. Future uncertainty. You have something that is causing you fear.


As we enter 2024, I am praying for you (and myself). My prayer is that we recognize the power of God’s confidence. My prayer is that we walk in our God-given purpose. My prayer is that we’ll tap into the hope of Christmas which is a reality all year long. 


This is what I learned from this past Christmas. 


When God is with us, we can do it afraid. 



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