Who would have thought a children’s Christmas program would make such a lasting impression on me? I’ve been going to programs like this one for more than half a century. Well, not quite like this one.
There I was sitting a few rows back from the stage at the children’s Christmas special at our church, laughing at the cute antics of the toddlers singing carols in their pajamas, totally unprepared for what was to come when those a bit older would get into the act.
I should have known we were in for some creative comedy in this kid’s Christmas program when two of the actors came center stage to explain the taxing by the Roman Empire that brought Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem, fulfilling the prophecy of Micah 5:2 about the place where the promised Savior would be born.
“What’s taxing?” asked one.
“How much money do you have?” replied the other.
“A dollar,” said the confused questioner.
“Give it to me,” demanded the tax collector-actor, the not-so-subtle truth of his line pleasing the audience and nearly bringing the house down with laughter.
But the real mind-sticker for me came later when the angel of the Lord appeared to shepherds who were watching their flocks on a dark hillside to tell them of the birth of Christ in Bethlehem’s stable. The shepherds were frightened by this heavenly visitor and the light that engulfed them, but the angel reassured them saying, “Fear not; for, behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people” (Luke 2:10).
The young shepherd-actors overdid their portrayal of fear a bit, so the irritated angel thundered: “I SAID, FEAR NOT!” Then added, “WHAT PART OF ‘FEAR NOT’ DON’T YOU UNDERSTAND?”
What a question to consider at Christmas! Why are we afraid?
We may be afraid because we aren’t sure God loves us. Trials have swept in on us, taking us by surprise, and we wonder if God cares. Few people have trouble believing God loves them when things are going well, but things do not always go well. Joseph thought his world was falling apart when he discovered Mary was going to have a baby, but then put away his fears when he learned this was all part of God’s plan for him and Mary…and for us all.
We may be afraid because we think the obstacles to our happiness are too big for God to handle. Mary was troubled when Gabriel appeared to tell her she was to give birth to the Savior. How could this be? How could a virgin bear a child? What would Joseph, her husband-to-be, think? Would this mean the end of her dreams?
Not at all. God would work out the details. She didn’t need to understand. “For with God nothing shall be impossible,” said the angel (Luke 1:37).
We may be afraid because we have not begun to walk by faith. We’re trembling because we’re not trusting. Mary didn’t need to be afraid because she had found favor with God. And, because Christ entered history at Bethlehem, fulfilling the promises given to the prophets, we can find favor with Him too. We can accept the “fear nots” of the Bible by faith, even when we don’t fully understand them.
Roger Campbell is an author, a broadcaster and columnist who was a pastor for 22 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org