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“The LORD is for me, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?”             (Psalm 118:6)

As America’s Pacific fleet lay in ruins at Pearl Harbor – President Franklin Roosevelt delivered perhaps the most memorable speech of his career on December 8, 1941. The day before, Japanese pilots had bombed the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor with raids that killed 2,403 people and wounded nearly 1,200 others. Although Roosevelt and his advisors had received intelligence reports indicating an imminent attack by Japan days before, he had hoped that a peaceful solution could be found. He was infuriated to realize that while American and Japanese diplomats engaged in negotiations, Japanese aircraft carriers had been steaming toward Hawaii intent on attack. His words on December 8 relayed his personal indignation and anger. The speech, in which he called Japan’s act a “deliberate deception,” received thunderous applause from Congress and, soon after, the United States officially entered the Second World War. The same president who once said “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself” declared with equal conviction that his nation and the “unbounding determination of our people . . . will gain the inevitable triumph—so help us God.” Reports on supposed spy activity on the part of Japanese Americans began pouring into Washington. In some areas of the country, Japanese nationals were rounded up and held in custody as fear mounted.

Fear is one of the most debilitating emotions known to the human race. It is unbelievably powerful. It penetrates the heart, poisons the spirit, and paralyzes the soul. It can affect you not only emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, but it can also distress you physically. For Christians, the antidote to fear is faith in a God who is actively involved in the lives of His people . . . a God who is present with us. It is helpful to remember that some form of “fear not” is one of, if not the most common address to us in Scripture. Our most helpful counsel about fear comes in the form of an angel ministering to Mary when she learned she was pregnant with the one who was to be the Savior of the world. Totally baffled and devastated, no words could have meant more – “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God” (Luke 1:30). The angelic greeting comes with incredible consistency throughout the Advent story with the same message, the same command, repeated over and over again: “Fear Not.” When Joseph became aware that Mary was with child, he “resolved to divorce her, quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:19-20). Likewise, when God announced the birth of His Son to a group of humble shepherds, an angel appeared before the stunned men. “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’” (Luke 2:10-11). In each case the message was simple, and yet so profound: “Don’t be afraid . . . The Lord is with you.”

Therein lies the message of Christmas. As we consider the good news of the birth of Jesus, we come to understand the true meaning of Immanuel . . . God with us (Matthew 1:23). He sustains us through all things, because He is the author and finisher of our faith. We need to become more like the main characters of the Christmas story, and walk on our journey by faith and not by sight. With messages like the angels’ visits to Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds, ‘Fear Not’ assures us that God will always give us the guidance we need to reject fear. Listen to the words of the psalmist, David, who was born in the same city as Jesus many years and generations before: “The LORD is my light and my salvation– whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life– of whom shall I be afraid?” God is still present and active in this world. And because we know that He keeps his promises, we don’t have to be overcome by the fears of the moment. When Christ becomes our central focus – confidence replaces all of our anxieties. As you prepare your heart for Christmas this year, may you experience the fullness of His joy. As a result you are destined to find true freedom from all your fears.

REFLECTION: What fears are threatening to overwhelm you this Advent season? How might focusing on Jesus help you to live more confidently? How can you use this to assist others who share their own fears?


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