The prophet Isaiah foretold that a child would be born who would be called our Wonderful Counselor, our Mighty God, our Everlasting Father, and our Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).
To understand the true significance of Isaiah’s prophecy, a fresh look at the lives of each character in the Christmas story reveals the significance of that Bethlehem night. The unique tapestry of persons – kings to shepherds – is woven by the common tangled threads of fear and uncertainty deep within each of their hearts.
Elizabeth and Zechariah, Mary’s aged cousin and her husband, a priest, are “gripped with fear” when the angel appears to Zechariah to announce the birth of their son, the one who would be a “joy” and “delight” and “make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” God extends mercy in the face of Elizabeth’s fear of childbirth. Zechariah later prophesies that Christ would “show mercy” and enable those who fear him to “serve…without fear.” The Christ child would shine on those living in the darkness and guide their feet into the path of peace. Peace and mercy would follow Elizabeth and Zechariah in their new life roles, unexpected at their age, that would allow them to serve without fear.
…God is with you.
Mary, a young girl, finds favor with God and is afraid when the angel appears and tells her she is to be the mother of the Christ child. After Mary surrenders her natural, human fear and exchanges it for a reverential fear, God touches her heart with mercy. She testifies that this kind of fear – godly fear – will extend from one generation to another. The angel reassures Mary that nothing is impossible with God. She can now face her new role with a fearless courage that would swaddle her from the cradle to the cross.
… God is with you.
Joseph, to whom the angel appears in a dream, is afraid and contemplates divorcing his wife quietly. His personal word from God is that the Word would be born and his name would be called Immanuel. The angel appears again to quiet the fear in Joseph as he leads his wife and child to Egypt and later to Nazareth to escape Herod’s ploys. The original message from the first angel resounds over and over as Joseph is faced with uncertainty in courageously caring for his family in the midst of potential peril.
….God is with you.
Magi, wise kings from the East, are summoned by King Herod to find the Christ child. They follow the star and find the true King and present him with gold, incense, and myrrh. They are warned in a dream to not go back to Herod and, instead, return to their country by another route. Fear of insubordination and perhaps a new direction in life await their return.
…God is with you.
Shepherds, ordinary people tending sheep on an ordinary night, bear witness to that which is not. The glory of the Lord encircles the terrified men as excitement replaces their anxiety. The lowliest in society lowly bow to the Great Shepherd, of whom they would testify. The initial glory that encircles them in their fear is later replaced with glorifying God in the midst of what they have experienced.
…God is with you.
My friend, what fears encircle or grip you at this season of your life?
The fear of unexpected life changes, like Elizabeth and Zechariah?
The fear of a new role that requires courage, like Mary?
The fear of leading and caring for your family, like Joseph?
The fear of godly obedience in the face of earthly obedience, like the Magi?
The fear of testifying about your life experiences because of your status, like the shepherds?
You may not understand your present darkness or the fears of the unknown or uncertainty that encircle you. Perhaps this season the longing of your heart is for tangible gifts to be replaced with God’s intangible gift of mercy in the midst of your fear.
John the Baptist foretells that Christ comes as a witness to the light, the light that shines in the darkness, even though the darkness does not understand it. Perhaps you do not understand your darkness. But that is why Christ came.
…To pierce the darkness with His light.
…To give the gift of mercy in the midst of fear.
…To offer hope for that which lies in the future of the unknown.
Present the gift of yourself and your fear to the King. His mercy is waiting to dispel the darkness of your heart more brilliantly than the star pierced the night sky at Christ’s birth.
Allow His mercy to touch your fear – like those in the Christmas story – so you, too, may bear witness to His glory to others. His love for you is not a dream, and He longs to extend a fresh touch of mercy in your life.
The messages of Isaiah and Christmas resound, “Do not fear, I am with you… I am your God” (Isaiah 41:10).
…Indeed, God is with you.