The KJ version of the Bible says that there are 29 places where it says "do not be afraid." The NA Bible includes the phrases "do not fear" 57 times and "do not be afraid" 46 times. Some argue that "fear not" and similar phrases are present in the bible 365 times. (with thanks for this info from Reference.com)
Three times we hear of this "don't be afraid" phraseology in the CHRISTmas story. Once when Gabriel appears to Mary to tell her she is going to be pregnant (Luke 1:30); then another time when Joseph, in a dream about taking Mary as his wife is scared (Matthew 1:20); and thirdly, the scene of the "terrified" shepherds in Luke 2:9.
It seems that everywhere God goes, terror and fear reigns.
The disciples were terrified at the Transfiguration experience (Luke 9:34) and the soldiers guarding Jesus' tomb at Easter were so terrified of the angel who appeared that they "fell down like dead men" (Matthew 28:4). Matthew writes that before they passed out they all "shook with fear." Wow! Good, strong military-trained men trembling and fainting? Must have been a sight to behold!
How can such a "fearful God" be projected as such "an approachable Christ" as we often say in our sermons and Sunday School lessons? Where does all this fear come from? Why are some of the best believers so afraid?
Well, for one thing, meeting God in this way isn't an everyday affair. Yes, we can meet Christ on every road or direction we take each day-true-but I mean, in a Cecil B. DeMille/George Lucas kind of a way (spectacular): a biblical proportioned way filled with miracle and divinely inspired special effects!
It really doesn't seem to happen very much these days, but when it does, watch out. And also think about this: when these biblically miraculous things have happened, they aren't usually exposed to masses of people (with the exception of the feeding of the 4,000 and 5,000); most miracles, especially at the first CHRISTmas, were shown to only a handful of people (Mary, Joseph, a couple/handful of shepherds, and maybe [according to legend], the innkeeper's wife). The wisemen, according to precise interpretation of scripture, don't show up CHRISTmas night but maybe days, months, even a possible year or two later (we don't really know how long Mary, Joseph, and Jesus remained in Bethlehem)-so-the three wise guys aren't even in the picture yet.
Christ is born, He is revealed to a handful of folks, the world turns on its axis, and humanity is set for a new dawn.
Think about this: Maybe fear is more natural than phenomenon. When we aren't sure, or, something seems surreal, we cannot comprehend it with our little brains and often that inability to decipher gets translated into fear and terror. "I can't figure this out so it must be really bad!" we think in our hearts. With that observation, we tremble, shake, and faint dead away. Faith has seemed to dessert us. Jesus asks often in His three-year mission, "Where is your faith?" Especially when His buddies are in a boat with Him somewhere and a storm approaches-they all literally lose it! (Faith, that is!)
All we can do is realize that we do lose faith sometimes; we crack up and lose control of the situation (and believe me, we do NOT like to lose control of anything in our lives). That's when-with fear and trembling-we need to recall that God is with us, not away from us-that we are never alone. Hold onto that in the midst of our fear, and God will guide us through that frightful time.
Sometimes, that is the only way to remember that...
God loves you and so do we!