God’s Antidote to Fear

12-24-17—Christmas Eve Sermon  7:00 p.m.

Scripture:  Luke 2:1-20

Theme:  There is much to fear – but more to hope for.  This transition in attitude is made possible by the One who joined us and joins us to move us beyond where we can get to ourselves – a sense of God’s presence in life, a spiritual security that helps us face our fears, and replace them with hope.

A few months ago, I underwent a minor medical procedure as part of my insurance coverage’s required wellness protocol.  You would not think it was minor, however, if you saw the bill I received a few weeks later.  It was very high, several thousand dollars.  They must have used gold-plated instruments, or flown a specialist in from Switzerland, or something.  My heart skipped a beat when I saw that bill, but I then regained composure, as I noticed on the bill a note that said two beautiful words, “insurance pending.”  My fears dissipated.

My anxiety returned, however, when I heard back from my insurance company.  They noted on the bill that cost of the procedure “is greater than the amount allowed for the service.”  There at the bottom of the form were those scary words saying “you may have to pay the provider several thousand dollars.”  My heart plunged, as I was sure my bank account would as well, as I thought about trying to afford such an expense.  Should I take out a loan?  Should I raid my son’s piggy bank?  Should I try playing the lottery?  Should I go through our couches for loose change?  We didn’t have that kind of cash at all; fear gripped my soul.

And it gripped it for over a month, until the second bill came, stating I hadn’t paid the first bill.  Now, I usually pay our bills in a timely fashion, but I found myself somewhat frozen by fear – the cost of that bill was beyond our means to pay.  Perhaps I was hoping that if I let the bill sit for a month, either they would discover they had made a mistake, or that perhaps a generous Christmas spirit would overtake the insurance company and they’d pay the bill as a gift to me.  But no such luck; there was the bill, with the same impossible amount, threatening an overdue fine if I did not pay immediately.

I festered in fear for a few days, uncertain of what to do.  Finally, I decided that this insurance company must have worked with people in the past who faced a similar dilemma – they must have some ideas to share.  So, fearful that they would yell at me for not paying my bill, fearful that they might cancel my insurance for not paying on time, fearful that they would raise my premiums just because I admitted our inability to pay, I mustered up the courage to call the insurance headquarters.  Practically wincing in my fear, I explained my situation, whereupon the representative called up my account.  “Let me see here,” he said, “I have your account.  It looks like we made a mistake.  You have full coverage; I’ll go ahead and erase the bill.”  I immediately fainted.

No, I didn’t faint, although I felt an amazing relief come over me.  I had been in a kind of fear-induced agony for almost two months.  And I came to realize that indeed a mistake had been made – but it was not really about the wrong number on the bill.  The mistake I had made was trusting rather than checking my fears.

Often this is what happens to us – we let fear gain the upper hand.  We allow our worries and anxieties to determine our mindset, to control our attitude, to impact our heart, to the point that we begin to die a little inside, to lose sight of hope.  How often would it be the case that, if we checked those fears, if we examined our anxieties by consulting the one who knows us better than we know ourselves, there would be little or no substance to them?  How often would our fears dissolve if we asked God about them?  If we asked God to share them?  If we asked God to join us in facing them together?

That’s what happened a long time ago, in a land far away and obscure.  God joined us in our fears.  By means of a manger, a star overhead, and the proclamations of angels and the witness of shepherds, Jesus came to a world immersed in violence, decay, hatred, anxiety, injustice, and all manner of darkness; he came to join us in that darkness in order to show us a light that was greater still.  His coming was proclaimed by the words, “FEAR NOT, for I am bringing you good news of a great joy for all the people.”  He came as one showing us a new way of believing, a new foundation for hoping, a new pattern for living, that exceeded the powers of darkness.  He joined us in our fears to lead us out of our fears through the power of love.  He joined us to move us beyond ourselves, and towards God.

Here, on this day, we celebrate Christ’s birth; we look back to when God touched the face of the world, when the messiah visited our planet, and consider the meaning of that revelation from the manger to the resurrection.  We find ourselves the extreme object of God’s affection.  We find our fears ultimately unfounded.  We find ourselves blessed by a faith that will not lead us astray, a hope that will never die, a love that will never be lost.  In Jesus, God joins us in our fears, to help us cast those fears away.  This is the meaning of Christmas.  Amen!