Today begins week 3 of Advent. This week we will highlight necessary postures for receiving God’s promises. Not everyone recognized the Savior. Why did shepherds and Magi see the Messiah while others, including the religious leaders, missed him? It’s not mere coincidence. Those who saw Jesus were ready. The first necessary posture is also today’s main thought. “Do not be afraid.”
1 John 4:16-18
And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
“But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, you descendants of Abraham my friend, I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, ‘You are my servant’; I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 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.
My boys, Noah and Micah, are two of God’s greatest gifts. My love for them is indescribable. Are they frustrating? Yes. Do they intentionally misbehave? No doubt. Do they require a lot of time and energy? For sure. But, when I look into their eyes or hold them, I feel love and grace.
For love to work, however, it must be reciprocated. Love is a two-way street. When I hold my boys, I feel love. Do they feel the same thing? After all, punishment is a daily occurrence in the Powell house. The answer comes the moment I walk in the door. When I step through the door, Noah and Micah run towards me, overcome with excitement. This is proof they know my love. Despite the difficult times, my boys’ respond to my presence by drawing near.
Love always draws near. It always feels safe and accepted. Love isn’t void of punishment, but it’s also not driven by punishment. It can’t be. Punishment is a product of fear, and there is no fear in love.
When angels appear to lowly shepherds, replacing silence and darkness with glory and light, their words are potentially my favorite in all of Scripture. Take a moment and breathe these words into your heart and soul.
“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.”
These eternal beings stoop down from the heavenly realm to deliver a divine message to temporary beings. The most important message in the history of the world begins with “Do not be afraid.” You might say, “Frank, the angels begin here because, upon their arrival, the shepherds cower in fear.” But let’s give these angels (and God) more credit. Remember, angels are eternal, sent from God, who is also eternal. Their words, therefore, are also eternal.
“Do not be afraid“ isn’t a circumstantial response to trembling shepherds. It’s the first step on the road to Bethlehem. The first words from these angels reveal something about finding Jesus. God is love, perfect love. Perfect love drives out fear. Fear can’t ignite love. No one falls in love through dreadful, slavish fear. “Frank, I’m in love. This girl is amazing. During our date, she only threatened my life twice.” What?!
Likewise, finding Jesus doesn’t begin with fear.
Should we fear God? Absolutely. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” There is a type of evil fear, however. This fear enslaves us. It alienates us from God, painting Him as hateful and vengeful. This type of fear says God is, first and foremost, a consuming fire, not a loving Father.
This fear is one of Satan’s greatest lies. He knows we can’t love a God who terrifies us. If our greatest desire is to escape God’s punishment, we don’t actually love God. What a tragedy that many Christians’ first steps towards God are rooted in punishment rather than love. “Repent of your sins or burn in hell. Turn from your wicked ways or my wrath will be upon you.” Many Christians spend their lives running from punishment rather than running to God.
Any step towards Jesus starts with “Do not be afraid.”
Why? Cue the angels again. “I bring you good news that will cause joy for all the people. Today…a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” God’s messages are good news. They ignite joy and excitement.
Many Christians forget the gospel is GOOD news. It’s not terrifying news. It’s not scary news. It’s not bad news. It’s good news. What is this good news? God is with us. Any picture of God must include a helpless baby. God places stars, but he also lies in a manger.
Advent, the arrival of Jesus, is the antidote to evil, slavish fear. What if we saw love as the cure to fear? Is our world not desperate for the Christmas message? Go ahead, muster up more courage. Build walls of bravery around your heart. But only love conquers fear.
“Do not be afraid” is the first statement in the Messiah’s birth announcement.
“Do not be afraid” is the path to joy, peace, and drawing near to God.
“Do not be afraid” is the first brushstroke in the portrait of Jesus’s life on earth.
“Do not be afraid.” God brings good news. Draw near to Immanuel.
- What is your primary motivation for obedience: fear or love?
- Write the phrase “Do not be afraid” in a place where you will see it before your day begins. Allow this truth to frame your day. And when you read the words, do not think “courage.” Think “love.”
Father, you are love. Guard my heart against any temptation to equate love with fear. When fear threatens my intimacy with you, remove it. Help me remember the phrase “Do not be afraid” and allow these words to frame my picture of Jesus. I love you. Amen.
I love you all. To God be the glory forever. Amen!