The fear and trembling Zacharias must have felt as he entered into the Holy of Holies to perform the religious duties. Tradition tells us a rope was tied around the ankle of the priest who entered so that if he died while in the sanctuary, the crowd outside could pull him out without defiling the holy place or putting themselves at risk of incurring the wrath of God.
The fear Mary must have felt knowing she would be would become a pregnant teenager in a culture and legal system that could have stoned her to death for adultery. The fear of what her betrothed, Joseph, might do when he learned of her pregnancy.
The fear, anxiety, anger Joseph must have felt knowing his fiancé was pregnant, and he was not the father. What would his family say? What ridicule would he have to endure from friends, neighbors, community?
The fear of the poor, uneducated shepherds, the lowest of the low. Some say in New Testament Palistine Shepherds were regarded on the same level as tax collectors and dung sweepers--they were dirty and untrustworthy. Why would an angel appear to them if not to punish? What would happen to their sheep if they abandoned their flocks to go find a babe born in a barn? Who would believe their witness to the baby in a manger?
LTC graduates leading Christmas activites at a remote village
The overall fear all who believed in the coming of the Messiah must have felt, knowing He would usher in a new kingdom. What political backlash could be expected from the ruling powers? Herod the Great, the Idumaean King of Judea, would not stand for a new dynasty. The Roman emperor? Never.
Fear was part of the first Christmas story. Yet the angels all proclaimed "FEAR NOT!"
Fear may not be a part of our Christmas story today. But for many other believers around the world, FEAR has every right to be a part of the Christmas story. One of the blessings of social media is being able to keep up with what graduates of Lanna Theological Center are doing in their churches and communities. As you know several of our graduates serve in a communist country where they face daily the threat of persecution, prison, even death, for their faith. And yet, as I follow them on social media, they are a witness to the Birth of Christ. Traveling to villages and leading small house churches in public proclamations of the Bir
th of the Savior. Under constant threat of being arrested for Christmas celebrations, these faithful servants heed the voice of the Angels "FEAR NOT"
"FEAR NOT, for I bring you good news of great joy" Yes, it was a dangerous time for the participants in the first Christmas. And it is a dangerous time for many of our graduates. Yet when I look at the pictures they post on social media, I do not see fear. I see they celebrate Christmas with great joy.
"FEAR NOT for unto you a savior is born, Christ the Lord" Joy is not found in the peaceful, silent night of Christmas. For many of our co-workers there is no peace at Christmas. Joy is not found in gathering with family and friends. Many of our friends serving in this country have been cast out by friends, family, and community.
Joy is not found in receiving or giving lavish gifts to our loved ones. Christians in parts of SE Asia are among the poorest of the poor. Yet, I see joy in these pict
ures. Where we in the west would only see fear, loneliness, heartache, my friends who serve in this closed country have joy. They have joy because their Savior, Christ the Lord, is born. And they FEAR NOT because they believe the promises that accompany that birth--forgiveness of sin, life eternal.
Friends, it is my prayer for you that this season of celebration is one of peace, joy, thanksgiving. May you be blessed by your time with family and friends. Celebrate and enjor the giving of gifts. But I also pray we remember where our true peace and joy can be found. That even if we find our selves in difficult circumstances this season, we FEAR NOT! But like our brothers and sisters in another country, we have JOY because of the GOOD NEWS of great joy, OUR SAVIOR, CHRIST THE LORD, lives.
Thank you so much for your support of this ministry. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
The CMO Family