by Mary Harker | 3-minute read
“But the angel said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid, for look, I bring you great tidings of great joy that will be for all people.’
Luke 2:10 (CSB)
When I hear the word fear, joy is not the next word that comes to mind. Like water and oil, they do not seem to mix. The shepherds of the Christmas narrative were going about their business, caring for the sheep. Their quiet night was interrupted by the angel’s bright light, and they were terrified. The angel told them not to be afraid but brought news of great joy amidst the alarm. The shepherds shed their fright and embraced the good news. They hurried to find the babe told them by the angel. They shared with others, giving praise and glory to God for all they had seen.
Finding joy in the presence of fear is a repeated theme in the Christmas story (Matthew 1:20–21; Luke 1:12–14; Luke 1:30–33). It is a glorious concept, but one I have difficulty putting into practice. Finding joy in pain and adversity is easier said than done. It takes an intentional change in my thinking based on truth: Jesus is my anchor to contentment. My circumstances are not.
Often, I get tripped up with “stinking thinking” and falsely believe that my happiness depends on people, happenings, things or achievements. I lose sight of the joy ultimately set before me, especially during the times we currently live. When I look at Scripture and remember Jesus, my enjoyment returns; I recall he gave up everything for the joy set before him (Hebrews 12:1–2). He endured and persevered with quiet confidence to fulfill the Father’s promises. I can rejoice that whatever pain, suffering, or disappointment I go through is worth more than gold and results in praise, glory and honor to my God and Creator (1 Peter 1:6–7).
I imagine Mary and all she experienced during this time in her life. She could have instinctively fallen into fear and anxiety. Instead, she and Joseph walked step-by-step together in faith; not knowing what lay ahead. They trusted in their God. She chose to praise the greatness of the Lord and rejoice in God, her Savior (Luke 1:46–47). After hearing the shepherds’ message, she treasured all these things in her heart and meditated on them (Luke 2:19).
I do not know what you are experiencing these days. Maybe your heart is singing with praise and contentment, or perhaps you are dredging for cheer in the middle of pain and suffering. Dear one, may I invite you wherever you are, to draw near to Jesus. Set your mind on him and let contentment and joy replace fear and anxiety. Let him enter where you are and sit with you. He understands firsthand and can show you his promises for today and eternity. May we be like the shepherds and glorify and praise God for all the things we have seen and heard (Luke 2:20).
Dear Father, I rejoice at the message of your good news, a babe born to save the world. Often in this world, I can be overwhelmed with fear and anxiety. Thank you for always being with me. Please help me to keep my eyes on you and walk with bold faith and joy.