“Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!” Luke 1:30-33
As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:20-21
Have you ever thought about how much courage was involved in the first Christmas? Maybe not. We think about the wonder and joy of Christmas, but never think about the challenges that first Christmas brought to Mary and Joseph. It must have taken a tremendous amount of courage to accept God’s calling on their lives to be the earthly parents of His Son.
When the angel appeared to Mary, to tell her she had been chosen to be the mother of the Savior of the world, he said, “Don’t be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God!” The angel knew how much courage Mary would need to face what God was asking her to do. He knew her family and friends would think she had committed adultery. He knew Joesph could have Mary punished or killed for her perceived sins. The angel also knew how much courage Mary would need to say yes to raising the Son of God. What if she made a mistake? What if Jesus got hurt? What if she couldn’t let Jesus go when it was time to begin His ministry? What if she wasn’t good enough? There were many reasons for Mary to be afraid, and yet the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Mary.”
When an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream, he said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife.” The angel knew it would take a lot of courage for Joseph to disregard Jewish law and customs to take Mary as his wife. After all, she was pregnant, and not with his child. He knew people would look down on Mary as an adulterer. Some might think Joseph was the father, even though he and Mary weren’t married yet. Why would he marry her if someone else was the father? The angel also knew that being the earthly father of the Son of God would be a daunting task for anyone. Joseph must have had some fears. Could he teach Jesus everything he needed to know? What if he made a wrong decision? Was he smart enough to raise Jesus? Joseph was not a wealthy man. How could he provide the kind of life that God’s only Son should have? There were many reasons for Joseph to be afraid, and yet the angel said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid.”
Today, Christmas can still require courage for many different reasons. For some, Christmas requires the courage to navigate this season of togetherness, alone. For others, a large dose of courage may be needed to face this season with hope and joy, after the loss of a loved one. There may be some of you who are struggling to find the courage to join in on the celebrations of the season, when everything in your life seems to be falling apart. Maybe you have financial worries and need the courage to tell your family that there won’t be much under the tree this year. Maybe you are dealing with serious health issues, and are looking for the courage to accept the gift of the baby Jesus that was given for you.
If you need courage, for any reason, during this Christmas season, I believe God wants to say to you, “Don’t be afraid.” God was with Mary and Joseph, as they raised His Son, and I believe He is right there with you also.
And, if you are feeling blessed and hopeful, and caught up in joy this Christmas, remember to reach out to someone who may need to draw some strength and courage from you.
Be blessed and Merry Christmas!