In the first Advent God keeps saying, “Fear not!” It’s a word we need to hear today too.
Zechariah and Elizabeth were told that after decades of waiting they’d finally have a child in their old age. (Luke 1:5-25)
But “Don’t fear being disappointed again.”
Mary was a young, unmarried woman who was impregnated with the Messiah. (Luke 1:26-38)
But “Don’t be afraid to wear a ‘Scarlet A’ in your village.”
Mary’s fiancé Joseph was a man of high morals and was greatly respected and now he was caught in conflict with his family and friends. (Matthew 1:18-25)
But “Don’t be afraid to take Mary and the baby as your own and to be judged and rejected.”
The lowly shepherds watching their flocks out in the hills at night had no respect in the city of Bethlehem — nobody ever listened to them. (Luke 2:8-20)
But “Don’t be afraid to share with everyone your incredible story of angels and the Messiah baby born to peasants in a cave.”
2,000 years later we may have the same fears at Christmas. Disappointment. Embarrassment. Family conflict and stress. Not having influence.
As with the Advent characters, often the “fear not” word of divine peace is totally contrary to our circumstances. By itself the “fear not” would feel like uncaring advice. It’d be dismissing of emotion and need. It’d be invalidating because these are scary situations!
All the “fear nots” of the Bible are a true blessing because they come in a larger context that includes the Lord’s caring presence in which he’s been listening to and offering his empathy for our emotions and needs. (I say, “There are 365 of ‘Fear Nots’ — one for every day of the year!“)
We all need the empathy of Advent!
Praise God he has taken on human flesh in Christ Jesus! This is perfect empathy! Unconditional love, forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and all the divine gifts flow from God’s empathy for us. (This is the inspiration behind our popular “Devotionals and Prayer Cards for Advent.”)
As the Beloved Disciple of Jesus says, “Perfect love removes all fear” (1 John 4:18).
There is profound psychology in this Bible verse. Underneath any significant fear is the ultimate fear: the fear of being abandoned or alone. All enduring fear comes from being emotionally disconnected from loving relationship.
We all need the validation, comfort, and grace that empathy mediates. That’s why the Bible says “Rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15)
Here are some tips on giving and receiving empathy:
- Ask open questions like “How are you feeling?”
- Mirror and validate emotions with fresh words. You could say “It seems you feel ______.”
- Come back to the heart-issue by saying, “Tell me more about ______.” (Usually more listening is needed than you think.)
- You also need to be receiving empathy from safe, capable people. Empathy-love has to be in you to come out of you (1 John 4:19). Find a few soul friends who offer empathy and ask for them to listen to your feelings.
Today’s devotional is adapted from the “Fear Not!” chapter in Your Best Life In Jesus’ Easy Yoke by Bill Gaultiere.
You’ll find our “Easy Yoke book” and other resources for your soul, your small group, or Christmas gifts in Soul Shepherding’s online store for the same price as Amazon. (All revenue supports our nonprofit ministry to pastors.)
When you listen to our 20-minute podcasts you are invited into conversations of empathy: “Soul Talks With Bill & Kristi Gaultiere.”