At the first Christmas, God keeps saying, “Fear not!” It’s a message we still need to hear today, too.
Let’s explore how God encouraged those at the first advent to “Fear Not”…
Fear Not’s from the First Christmas
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 be labeled an impure woman 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.”
Fear Not’s for Your Christmas Today
2,000 years later, we may experience some of these same fears at Christmas. Disappointment. Embarrassment. Family conflict and stress. Not having influence.
As with those at the first Advent, 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 would be dismissing emotion and need. It would feel invalidating because those were scary situations just like the real concerns you face today.
All the “fear not’s” 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.
To Not Fear, We Need the Empathy of Advent
Praise God that he took 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 Surprising Joy: A Journey with Jesus for Advent Devotional Cards. 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 a 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 spiritual director or soul friend who offers empathy and ask for them to listen to your feelings.
This article has been adapted from the “Fear Not!” chapter in Your Best Life In Jesus’ Easy Yoke by Bill Gaultiere. You’ll find this book and other resources for your soul, your small group, or Christmas gifts in Soul Shepherding’s online store.
Praying that you will experience empathy from Jesus and his ambassadors in this season so that you can experience God’s presence and fear not at Christmas.