Christmas is for those who are afraid!

By Joel A. Hess

This December, people across the world have been setting up idyllic manger scenes on pianos and below Christmas trees. Mary and Joseph bend down toward the perfect-looking child while well-groomed animals, shepherds, and angels peer upon the peaceful babe. All in all, every Crèche promotes a serenity that rises above the chaos of our world. I myself sit back in my recliner with a fire crackling, a negroni in my hand and a sweet nativity sheltered beneath my decorated spruce.

Yet, the actual events were not so smooth. Don’t kid yourself! The world did not want this baby. Joseph did not originally want this baby. Mary had not planned on this baby. Herod was shocked to hear that this baby was born. All of Jerusalem pulled their hair and tore their shirts when they heard such a baby was born. Jesus’ birth brought anything but tranquility. No one was comfortable! Jesus birth was unplanned, unexpected, and unwanted by everyone.

While the exaggerated story of hotel managers turning away Jesus is untrue, nevertheless, Jesus’ birth caused discomfort for all, as Mary was forced to give birth in a crowded home and had no choice but to place God in an animal’s smelly feed trough. And I am certain the other guests were not too happy with a crying child in the night.

A couple of years ago, my wife and I were surprised by our third son. We had given up on having more kids for some time. We had our plans laid out. We were finally going to get ahead and pay off debt. She was going to go to school, and so was I. We were quite settled. So when my wife announced her pregnancy, it turned our whole world upside down. More than that, he suffered from Down syndrome! Suddenly, our whole life revolved around one little boy!

Christmas should make us much more uncomfortable! We want Christmas to be a nice little break from our day-to-day, only to go back in January. Then we can put our little Jesus away with all the angels, stars, Marys, and Josephs. We want to stare at the little manger scene and imagine. We don’t want to hear what the Christ child has to say.

Yet, Jesus did not come to fit comfortably in our narrative. He came to flip it around! He came to disrupt! He came to place you in His story! And that can actually be a little uncomfortable, to say the least.

Herod wanted Jesus dead because there can only be one king. So the Pharisee and chief priests would later agree and do the deed. Don’t you be so smug. You want Him dead sometimes, too. Abortion. You might not be king of much, but it’s something. At best, we want to share the kingship. We will repent of that which is easy to repent. We will hold other things until it’s forced from us. Jesus, you stay over there in the manger. Make me comfortable as I see fit.

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Yet the angels said time and time again, “Do not be afraid!” Why?  They were afraid, and we should be too! We should be afraid of our sins. We should be afraid of death. We should be afraid to be in the presence of God. We should be afraid of Christmas!

For only people who are rightly afraid can hear the angels’ consolation, “Do not be afraid!” For God has come not on a dark horse with justice but as a babe in a manger—between two thieves on a cross!

Do not be afraid of your sins. Christ took them.

Do not be afraid of your decaying body. Christ resurrected it.

Do not be afraid of Satan, who accuses. Jesus paid the price.

Do not be afraid of death. You will rise again.

No one asked for Him, yet He came. No one asked Him to, yet He died for our sins. No one came to greet His resurrection, yet He rose. And don’t fool yourself. You didn’t ask Him to be your savior, yet He came—unplanned, unexpected, and unwanted. Yet, He came gently through water and blood in love and mercy. And though we fight it, He continues to advent with us, slowly loving us to death and loving us to life.

While we did not expect Him, plan for Him, or want Him, He wanted you!

Merry Christmas!

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