Thursday, January 8, 2015

“Leave Fear at the Door!” (Luke 1: 29-30)

S-1465 4SIA/3B 12/21/2014 Hymns: (O) #61; (S) #263; (C) # 94

Texts: 2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16; Romans 16:25-27; Luke 1:26-38

Theme: “Leave Fear at the Door!” (Luke 1: 29-30)

Question: “What are you afraid of?”

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia. The text for 4th Sunday in Advent is from the Gospel Lesson: But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God (Luke 1: 29-30).

Beloved people of God, fear can rob us of comfort, cause us sleepless nights and take the joy of living out of our hearts. Fear comes in many different forms. Some are afraid of death, loss of job, divorce, fire, not enough funds to pay the bills. And others are afraid of darkness, being robbed or being alone. No matter what is your fear, it is real and can debilitate a person.

Valerie Harper (actress who played Rhoda) on the Mary Tyler More Show (1970) was diagnosed with lung and brain cancer and was given only 3 months to live. Two years later, as she continued the fight said, “Every moment of fear robs you of your moment to live. If we spend much time in fear we are wasting these moments and we are not living right.” How right she is. To be afraid is to almost stop living.

But unless you know that first hand, it is hard for us to comprehend how fear stops us in our tracks. Before Israel became a country (May 14, 1948) many of the Palestinian villages were cleansed by Israeli Zionist who wanted all Palestinian people out of the Holy Land. Listen to a seven year old boy who lived through this kind of fear.

Elias Chachour, a priest from Ebelin, Israel helps us see how fear can grab our hearts like a vice grip and rob us of sleep. In his book Blood Brothers he writes: “As spring 1949 pounced upon us, tiger-like with its ferocious heat, I could see little peace anywhere but in our own home. We rose each morning with the fear {emphasis mine} that we might not lie down on our mats that evening. At any moment, we, too, might be swept away (p. 46). PAUSE.

Fear is like an anvil on your chest. Fear is taking the light out of your eyes, air out of your lungs and hope out of your future. In our text this morning we see a young lady who experienced this type of fear.

Into the village of Nazareth, Gabriel—the messenger of God was sent to Mary’s house. He told her that she will become the mother of God. At his words we are told she became exceedingly anxious about the news. Luke paints this image in the text: But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.

Indeed Mary was afraid and terrified. Put yourself in her shoes and you can see why. In her day (unlike ours) people looked down on unwed pregnant women. Also the fact that the Lord in His Word stated a woman who is pregnant before marriage is to be stoned to death. Add to that she is standing before the holy angel Gabriel. Sinful people just simply can’t stand in the presence of a Holy God. They can’t even stand with heads erect before one of God’s angels.

But the angel brought her comfort. He said, “Don’t be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.” He calmed her spirit and confirmed to her that God is the reason why she shouldn’t be afraid. In essence he was saying: “Mary, leave fear at the door!” When God and His Word are involved you have nothing to fear because He is looking out for you. Yes, leave your fears at the door, God ordained to use you, Mary, to give birth to His Son who would come to save the human race. PAUSE.

Saints in Christ, let me ask you theses questions: “Are you afraid this Advent season?” “What are you afraid of?” The manger won’t mean much to us if we don’t reexamine the reason for His coming. We need to look past the veneer we paste over life and into our hearts. The sight isn’t pretty, but pretty horrible. We can no more kneel before Jesus’ manger than Mary could stand before that angel. But God has favored us too. He sent His Son—the Babe of Bethlehem to remove our sins with His payment on Calvary’s cruel cross and through the empty tomb. He sent the heaven-sent Savior—Jesus, so you and I could stand without any anxiety, fear or dread before the Throne of Grace this blessed Christmas season.

Today’s Scripture highlights the promises of God spoken first to Adam/Eve, and then through the ages to Abraham, Moses, Samuel, David, Joseph and Mary. His promises drive out fear from our broken hearts and lives. His promises comfort us as our opening hymn reminded us: “Comfort Ye, Comfort Ye, My people says Your God.” Indeed He does comfort us because of His gracious love poured out on humanity in a little 7-8 pound baby held in His mother’s arms in Bethlehem’s manger.

Remember what God does, He does for our good and for His glory. He gives us comfort and hope. Just as the angel spoke to Mary in Nazareth while terrified saying, “Don’t be afraid, Mary!” and with these words she was comforted and left fear at the door. So too, is the message today, 21 centuries later. The voice is still the same, the message is the still the same and the outcome is still the same—Don’t be afraid, little children!

Our gracious and loving God gently invites us, His children: “Tell Me all about it. There is no fear I can’t remove. No burden I can’t help you carry. No broken heart I can’t heal. No tear so bitter I can’t wipe away. No sin, regardless how often repeated, I have not forgiven.” PAUSE.

Beloved in the Lord, with the angel’s message, God fulfills the promise given to David that one of his own sons will sit on his throne forever. Jesus is the Son promised to come and in a few days we will welcome Him again, He who came in human flesh and now sits not only on the throne of David but also in our hearts.

Because of His coming we can and do leave fear at the door. Because of His coming we know that we serve an impossible God. He does the impossible. We can’t fathom this at all with our human mind; but we believe by faith. Because of His coming, we know how much God loves us and that He didn’t spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us; so that we may live with Him forever.

The promises of God are many. They give us comfort and peace even when the devil tries to take our eyes from Christ and focus on us and our situations. Here are few verses to help you leave fear at the door; not because I said so, but rather because God, our gracious and loving Father said so and His Word is final and eternal. May these words bring you comfort

“After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: Fear not, Abram, I Am Your shield; Your reward shall be very great’” (Genesis 15:1)

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord Your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9).

But the Lord said to him, ‘Peace be to you. Do not fear; you shall not die’” (Judges 6:23)

Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, Your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.” (Isaiah 35:4)

“…Fear not, for I Am with you; be not dismayed, for I Am Your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

And the precious Words of Jesus: “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me” (John 14:6).

Saints in Christ, if you are afraid today, or any day for that matter, I exhort you in the name of Him who came to earth, lived the perfect life in our behalf, died our death and rose again, Your Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ to leave fear at the door. For when Jesus enters in, fears fly away.

That is why we can and do leave fear at the door since the Savior promised to be with us forever and ever. Amen.

Now the peace…


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