Episode 125: Don’t be afraid

December 20, 2023Dave Lambert
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Christmas is almost here! Because Christmas is so much a part of our culture, we have certain images in our minds of what the story is all about. We think of Mary riding a donkey for a long journey to Bethlehem. A cold-hearted innkeeper saying “Go away. There’s no room here!” We see three Wise Men following a star to a manger in a town called Bethlehem. All of these things are part of the Christmas Story we know and love so much—but most of it is not in the Bible! Nothing in scripture says that Mary rode a donkey; she probably walked, probably a three-day journey by foot. There’s no innkeeper in the Bible, either. While the Bible describes that three gifts were brought as an offering, those “Wise Men” were astrologers. But how many? The Bible just doesn’t say. So instead on focusing on this part of the story, let’s listen to Luke’s account of the actual events that led up to Jesus’ birth:

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!” Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. “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 1:26-33)

You remember Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth. She was in the middle of a miracle herself. Her husband Zechariah, a priest, had been serving in the Temple and was visited by the angel Gabriel, who told him even though Elizabeth was barren and “advanced in years,” they would have a baby and name him John. In today’s passage, six months have passed when Gabriel pays a visit to Mary, a virgin engaged to be married. Gabriel said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!” Even so, Mary was confused and disturbed. Then Gabriel calmed her fears, saying, “Don’t be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God!” I like the way The Message translation says it: “Mary, you have nothing to fear. God has a surprise for you!” Isn’t it wonderful that God had Gabriel call her by name? God isn’t some impersonal force, He knows my name and your name, too. Well, Gabriel then went on to tell her God’s plan: “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!” That was a lot for Mary to think about. Even though she is a virgin, she’s going to have a son. On top of that, she must name Him Jesus, for He is God’s Son who will rule as a Davidic King. Forever. Wow! That’s a lot for us to think about too!

So in our next episode, we will look at how Mary responded to the angel’s message. But for today, let’s consider this: like Mary, God knows who you and me by name, and He has prepared something really great for us—so get ready for it!

© 2023 Dave Lambert