Series on Luke, II The Identification, B The Birth Awaited, Text: 1:26-56, Title: Forgetting our Fears

Introduction

The paralysis in our society today is caused by our living for the moment. We are driven by fear manifested in our desire for cheap thrills. Public speaking tops the list of the ten worst human fears, but the list quickly reverts to less frivolous financial problems, sickness and death. We fear nearly everything that is out of our control. It's nice to know somebody is in control. We all have fears. Marshall Foch, French First World War general said that no one but a fool boasts that he has never known fear. The message of Christmas is do not be afraid. This is the real antidote to our fears and we need to focus again on the story of the birth of our Savior. Three simple but powerful truths are set forth in this story. Fear not because God is gracious, God is great and God is good.

I Fear Not, God Is Gracious

We read of His grace first in verses 26-33, In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” The first words out of angelic messengers’ mouths are always, “Fear not.” In the modern theatre or films, the angels mostly look like men. Though they can appear that way, that first Christmas the angels who announced the birth of Christ were fearful. Gabriel who stands in the presence of God appeared to Mary and said, “Do not be afraid.” The shepherds to whom the angels appeared were terrified, but the angelic message contains the reason why they need not fear. The message was grace. Twice in the message the word favor is used, and the word favor here is the same as the word grace. From the beginning of time the daughters of Eve had remembered the promise that the seed of the woman will bruise the serpent's head. They waited for the fulfillment, and now God is being gracious to Mary and to his people. The angel has come to announce that the Savior is about to be born. Later when visiting Elizabeth Mary is greeted as the one through whom the promise is being fulfilled in verses 39-45, At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth.  When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!” Then Mary sings a song we call the Magnificat in which she celebrates God’s gracious covenant promise in verses 46-48, 50, 54, and 55, And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant...His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation... He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers.” There is much to be afraid of, but let us take heart. Into this sin cursed night, the light of grace has come. Fear not.

II Fear Not, God Is Great

God is not only gracious he is great. he is a refuge for those who trust in him. when Mary expresses puzzlement over how she will be with child and the angel replies in verses 34-38, “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.” “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her. The angel’s mention of Elizabeth  conjured up memories of barren Sarah and Hannah. Nothing is impossible with God. We have arrived at the stage where nothing is possible with God, but anything else is possible. We have unbelievers seeing miracles, angels and UFO’S. We have people communicating with the dead, predicting the future, and being resuscitated on their death beds and telling us there's nothing to worry about. We have a new theological mysticism in the new age movement where mother earth is considered to be alive. Anything's possible except that the Bible is true and that the God of the Bible means what he says because a real wonder from God means a moral commitment on our part, and we avoid that at all costs. Again Mary celebrates this power of God in her song in verses 48,49 and 51-53, From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. Do not fear because God is great and almighty. He controls whatsoever comes to pass. It reminds me of an anecdote I heard about the man who slowly crawled across a frozen river on his hands and knees afraid he might fall through. When he got near the opposite shore somebody whipped past him on a sled loaded with pig iron. Sometimes we are like that man, thinking that the divine promises will break under our feet. The Angel’s words, For nothing is impossible with God, are strangely reminiscent of what the Lord said to Abraham when Sarah laughed at the thought that she could have a child in Genesis 18:13 and 14, Then the LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the LORD? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son.” As Isaiah the prophet said in 12:2, Surely God is my salvation. I will trust and not be afraid.

III Fear Not, God Is Good

Saying that God is good means above all other things that He is trustworthy and we need not fear.  He has our best interests at heart and he does not change. I am Yahweh, I do not change, He declares. Circumstances change and become difficult or worse, even becoming seemingly intolerable, but God's nature does not change, and therefore we believe his promises. Mary was confronted with just such a choice and her answer to the angel Gabriel expresses her attitude in verse 38, “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her. Later when Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and declared in verse 45,  Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!” We do not venerate Mary or worship her for this attitude because we recognize that it is the gift of grace. God’s goodness is manifested in His grace. Thus Mary celebrates the goodness of God in her song of praise in verses 51-53, He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. In verse 49 Mary says, For the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name. We know that God did great things through Mary, but first he did great things in Mary. She had a genuine faith that only comes through the work of the Holy Spirit in a life. She knew the history of her people and the Scriptures as is manifested in verses 54 and 55, He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers.” When some Christians hail her as, Mary, full of grace, they are correct, but not because she had more grace or different grace than the rest of God’s people. It was the same faith as Abraham who believed God and went out not knowing where he was going, but looking for a city whose builder and maker is God It was the same faith as Moses who turned his back on the riches of Egypt to suffer affliction with the people of God. It was the same faith as David who believed the promise that his descendant would sit on his throne forever. We perceive that this attitude was present in all those who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, gained what was promised, quenched the fury of fire, and shut the mouths of lions. Their weakness was turned into strength because they believed God was good and a re-warder of those who diligently seek him. Their fear was conquered by believing God. This is the same grace God gives to each of us who believe in His Word.

Conclusion

Even in the midst of the joy and celebration of Jesus’ birth there lurks in every heart fear, but we shall never be delivered from that fear until we recognize that God is plenteous in mercy and ready to forgive. He sent his son to save us from our sins by his  atoning death and glorious resurrection. We must recognize that He is our only refuge. The world is a lie. God is true and good. he alone can save and so we trust in him alone. We turn deliberately from all worldly values and allow God alone to be the Lord of our conscience. His Word is the only thing we fully trust.