The historical account of Joseph and Mary traveling to Bethlehem in preparation for the birth of Jesus is no stranger to many of us. On Christmas, we celebrate Jesus Christ’s birthday, remembering why He had come (John 3:16–17). Although what God has done through the Lord Jesus Christ gives us the reason to be joyful always, do you also fear God in light of Christ’s birth? The birth of Jesus Christ should either make you afraid or make you admire and revere our awesome God.
Christians have no need to be afraid. In fact, on Halloween, we discussed the topic of the fear and the proper response to it. We have God on our side, so why should we be scared (see Psalm 118:6)? However, this does not negate the need for a fear of God. In this article, we are referring to two different definitions of fear in this context—to be scared of something or to have a reverent fear in awe of God. When we fear God, we submit to God as our Creator and Savior, and we will praise and glorify Him for who He is and what He has done for us.
Around the time of Christ’s birth, Scripture records several instances of praising and glorifying God for sending His Son. For example, read the following account of an angel appearing to the shepherds who were tending their flock:
Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:10–14)
The shepherds also responded with praise and glory to God after seeing Jesus for themselves (Luke 2:20). We can conclude from these accounts that both the angels and shepherds feared God. The angel also appeared to Mary. Read the following passage of Scripture detailing this account:
And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:28–33)
Notice that the angel told the shepherds and Mary not to be afraid. The very sight of the angel and the news of Jesus Christ’s birth was cause for fright, but the angel encouraged them to be joyful. And Mary did rejoice—read the following as she described God and what He has done:
And Mary said: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; for behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed. For He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name. And His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty. He has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed forever.” (Luke 1:46–55)
Christ’s birth is a happy and joyous occasion, and the angels, the shepherds, and Mary all knew there was reason to be joyful. Even when Mary greeted the mother of John the Baptist, Elizabeth said, “
The babe leaped in my womb for joy” (Luke 1:44). Moreover, Mary knew what it meant to be chosen by God to be the mother of Jesus Christ. She was humbled because she knew how great God is—she feared Him. Being joyful is just another result of fearing God.
As you look deeper in the Scriptures quoted above and other related passages, you will see examples of people who feared God—and the birth of Jesus Christ should cause you to be in awe of Him. Mary was amazed at how God, the Creator of the universe, would consider her to be the mother of His Son, and her response was one of fear—reverence and admiration for God.
Let us consider the other definition of fear—being scared of something. Could it be that some were afraid of Christ’s birth? For example, Herod the king was concerned upon hearing about the King of the Jews from the wise men and wanted to kill Jesus (Matthew 2:1–3). Herod was a king after all, and he did not want anyone to ever have a chance of usurping his throne. Of course, Jesus Christ was not looking for Herod’s throne, because He had come to die on the Cross for our sins.
Why was Herod so determined to kill Jesus (Matthew 2:13)? Was he that afraid of someone taking his throne, or could it be spiritual forces were at work? Christ’s birth was beginning the fulfillment of the prophecy in Genesis 3:14–15, which states, “
So the Lord God said to the serpent: ‘Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust All the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.’”
Those who feared God had no need to be afraid of Christ’s birth, but the birth becoming a reality spelled doom for the work of the serpent. It seems that Satan tried to do all he could to disrupt God’s plan by preventing this prophecy from coming true. Thanks be to God that He is in control and not Satan.
The Bible is God’s Word, and we know it to be true. His Word states that sin entered into the world through Adam (Genesis 3), and thus we all need a Savior—the Seed of the woman. The prophecy in Genesis 3:15 has been fulfilled through Christ’s work on the Cross, and “
whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
Today many question the account of Genesis 1–11, but those passages are the very foundation for why we need a Savior. Back in the Garden of Eden, the serpent said to Eve, “
Has God indeed said … ?” (Genesis 3:1), which began mankind’s demise. This attack of questioning God’s Word, particularly regarding Genesis, is still being used today. We must be prepared to stand on the authority of God’s Word no matter what.
Christians need to “
be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11) by putting on the armor of God, starting with the belt of truth (Ephesians 6:14). God’s Word is truth and our foundation in every area. We must learn to trust and defend His Word rather than questioning it. We should “
always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15).
As Christians, when we consider all that God has accomplished through sending his Son (Ephesians 1:3–6), our response should be one of admiration, reverence, respect, awe, praise, and joy because we have hope in Christ. When unbelievers consider the birth of Christ and what He was here to accomplish, they should recognize their condemnation and impending judgment and be very scared, as they have no hope apart from Him. If only they would turn from their sins and believe they would have no more reason to fear His birth and His coming judgment. Unbelievers would rather exchange “
the truth of God for the lie” and worship and serve “
the creature rather than the Creator” (Romans 1:25).
So what can we do? Spread the truth of Scripture to all, as Paul said, “
Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). This Christmas, think how you might share the joys of fearing God to those who do not know Him. Tell them they no longer need to be afraid and that they can “
come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16) if they believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and repent of their sins. Just as the birth of Christ was a joyous occasion and worth celebrating, it is also a time for rejoicing when unbelievers come to know Jesus Christ as their Savior. Jesus said, “
There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10).
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