Does Christmas scare you?
That might seem like a funny question. Christmas isn’t known for being especially scary.
Candy canes don’t usually cause kids to scream.
“Joy to the World” isn’t usually the background music for a creepy moment.
“Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown” is not under the horror section on Netflix.
Christmas is joyful. Christmas is merry. Christmas is holly jolly.
Yet all the family togetherness and joy of giving – seems to amplify our fears:
Fears that you won’t be able to afford food for the coming week thanks to your last dimes being spent on Christmas gifts.
Fears that you won’t be able to find work after the seasonal work is over.
Fears that your kid – whom you barely get the chance to see – will hate your gift and want to spend even less time with you in 2017.
Fears that dad will bring up that one time you said that one thing to him which will cause mom to blow up and the whole Christmas dinner to explode with fury.
Fears that the gift you got for your spouse – won’t make it up to them and the distance between you will only grow.
Fears that this may be your mom’s last Christmas – if she even makes it that long.
Today we are going to look at a very scary scene from the very first Christmas. We want to (1) see how God calmed Mary’s fears and (2) how the same truths can calm your fears this Christmas season and always. Before we do that, join me in a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see. Open our ears to hear what you want us to hear. Open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. The Fear of God’s Presence
v.27 – a virgin – young lady – soon to be married – nervous excitement about upcoming life:
Will the wedding all come together?
Will the flower girl remember to throw the flowers in the right direction?
Will there be any wedding crashers?
Will I make a good wife?
Will I like being with Joseph – all day, every day?
Will our family be a blessing?
Something happened to truly frighten her: “God sent the angel Gabriel to her...And he said, “Greetings!”
Is God angry with me? Why would an angel come to me?
Is he coming to get me back for not going to synagogue the last couple of weekends?
Does He know about the lusting that I had for Joseph’s brother last weekend?
Is He upset that I’m not inviting Aunt Matilda?
I’m a sinner. God is holy. I’ve read the Old Testament. I know how he hates sin – how he sent a flood to destroy the world, fire on Sodom and Gomorrah and an infestation of poisonous snakes on the unbelieving Israelites. I’m a sinner too! He can’t possible have good news for you.
Mary fell to the floor. Her face grew pale. Her heart beat fast. Sweat dropped from her forehead.
She was more than frightened; she was terrified!
Can you relate? An angel represents God. God is Almighty. God is All Good. The All-Good ruler of the universe cannot tolerate evil – even for a second!
Maybe you get this.
Maybe American culture gets this about God.
In fact, I think that’s one of the reasons that church going is one of the least favorite activities for Americans at Christmas time.
Give me presents. Give me holiday songs. Give me holiday specials. -- Just don’t give me church.
Because they’re gonna talk about God and sin and hell.
And that’s not very merry.
I want Christmas to be about sitting back, having eggnog, and watching “It’s a Wonderful Life”.
Because the truth is…
The truth is…that I get enough conviction on my own.
Voices that scream “you’ve done wrong.”
Phrases repeat: “You liar. You adulteress. You jerk. You sinner.”
I can’t go before God – To hear him say it…It’s too scary.
II. The Comfort of God’s Presence
But the angel didn’t let Mary to sit in that fear very long. Look at how he responds to her. He says, “Do not be afraid. You have found favor with God.” Literally that means “You have found a gift by God!" – A gift of his grace. The gift is this: “You will conceive and give birth to a son and you to call him Jesus.”
Mary breathed a sigh of relief. Phew! She wasn’t going to be zapped. God wasn’t angry with her. He wasn’t mad at her past sins. In fact, he was going to give her a gift – the gift of a Son. What a blessing! What a nice message. What a….
… Wait!?! A son? How can this be? I am a virgin! My mom talked to me about the birds and the bees. I know my biology. You created biology. You know as well as I know that I haven’t done anything that would warrant a child!
Look at the angel’s response to her: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. The Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God.”
In other words – This will happen because God is with you.
This will work out because God is with you.
Don’t be afraid because God is with you.
This is so interesting. Because that’s what frightened her to begin with. She was nervous about what kind of a greeting this might be. (v.29) But now that she knew of his grace. Now that she knew of his love. Now the thing that once frightened her – God’s presence – was now the thing that would give her the most comfort.
God would be with her. Every step of the way.
And she must have repeated that to herself over and over as she journeyed to the first Christmas.
At this miraculous conception, God was with her.
In that scary moment when she told her parents, “God is with me.”
In that scarier moment when she told her fiancé Joseph, “God is with me.”
In the months that she began to show, “God is with me.”
In the dirty looks people gave her at the marketplace, “God is with me.”
In the moments she heard people whisper, “That sinner!” “God is with me.”
In the hustle and bustle of getting things ready to travel, unexpectedly to Bethlehem, “God is with me.”
In the long journey filled with bumps in the road and labor pains in her tummy, “God is with me.”
In the frantic search for an inn – with room after room being filled, “God is with me.”
In the barn, surrounded by pigs and horses without a doctor in sight, “God is with me.”
On the first Christmas night, holding her newborn Son in her hands, looking into his eyes and whispering quietly, “God – you are with me.”
III. What now?
The truth is that what comforted Mary’s fear throughout that nine-month journey to Christmas is also a comfort for you. Because the two things that the angel Gabriel said to comfort Mary are also true of you.
(1) The Savior has Come!
Have you heard of Gender Reveal videos? It’s the latest trend for new parents. They get the results of their child’s gender. The results are sealed in an envelope and given to a friend. Then, they set up some kind of epic reveal – where they find out whether the baby is a boy or a girl – and someone records the whole thing on an iPhone and immediately posts to Facebook LIVE, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter.
I saw one the other day for a friend of mine who is a body builder. In his video, he had a giant, big rig tire with some black bags of chalk taped to the top of it. In the video, he flips the tire over, the bags explode and blue dust floats in the area! IT’S A BOY!
As exciting as it is for Mary to find out that she would be having a baby boy, think about how much more exciting it was to find out that he would be the Savior of the world!
In fact, she even found out his name – Jesus. Do know what that name means? It means “He saves.”
Now there’s a lot in a name. Some people are named after their hair, “Ebony,” or “Autumn.” Some are named after their grandparents, “Bob, Jr.” or “Thurston Howell III”. My name, “Philip,” means “lover of horses.” I don’t even like horses that much. (I’m just named after some character on the old soap opera, “Guiding Light.”)
“Jesus” means “he saves.” And that had great meaning to Mary because “he saved” her.” He saved Mary from her sins. He saved Mary from her guilt. He saved Mary from hell.
And he saves you. He saves you from sin. He saves you from guilt. He saves you from hell.
But here’s the difference. For Mary, it was something that was going to happen. And on Christmas she said, “The Savior has been born!”
For us? That’s true -- The Savior is born! But we also have the benefit of looking back. The Savior has been born, but also the Savior has lived perfectly. The Savior has died innocently; and the Savior has risen triumphantly for the forgiveness of all of your sins.
It means that by faith in Jesus Christ, you are forgiven.
All that guilt. All that shame. All the sin that makes you feel scared to approach God – has been removed!
(2) God is Near
For Mary – that was so important. It’s the reason she was pregnant – the Holy Spirit came upon her and dwelt on her in a miraculous way. His presence upholding, uplifting, and fear shielding her throughout her 9 month journey.
The Holy Spirit is near right now.
The Bible tells us that he works through his Word.
Besides – it promises that he remains with all who believe in Jesus.
Is that you? Take comfort – God is near.
He’s near no matter what you’re going through.
Are you alone this Christmas? God is near.
Are you behind on rent? God is near.
Are you spending it in the hospital? God is near.
Are you far away from family? God is near.
Are you apart from your kids? God is near.
Are you nervous, frightened, and scared? Don’t be! The God who controls all things – who loved you above all things – and who gave all himself for all of you – is near!
It’s like going to give a gift. My parents used to make me hand gifts to people at church. I was pretty shy when I was younger. So it wasn’t easy. In fact, I remember once getting some guys attention – only to have him (towering over me) turn and ask me what I wanted.
I ran away and clung to my dad’s leg.
And he said. “Don’t be afraid. I’m right here. I’m near.”
And he was right. It wasn’t so scary. My dad who loved me was right by me.
It’s the same thing that’s true for you.
Your Heavenly Dad is near to protect you – his Divine muscles are bulging.
Your risen brother is close by to go with you – He went through death and back to make it happen.
The Holy Spirit dwells within you to comfort you wherever you go – He is always at work in his Word to say in the kindest way possible, “Chill. God’s got this.”
So…chill. Don’t be frightened. Find comfort in Christmas – not the toys, not the fruit cakes and not the decorations – but the Savior.