Luke 1:30, 2:10; Matthew 1:20
Sometimes God seems to move at high speed, while other times it feels like He is slow in His program. And then there are times when it seems God is not moving at all.
In Genesis 1, we read how God said, “Let there be light” and there was light. That’s an example of God working at high speed! Yet God seemed to take His time when Israel was in captivity for 400 years (2 Kings 25:21). As far as Israel was concerned, God was too slow. He was taking His time to save them.
And then God remained silent for 400 years, between the Old Testament and the New. Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament, is dated 433 B.C.
To many people, the words of the prophets must have seemed like empty promises about a Messiah. God had said through the prophet Isaiah: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders – He will reign – with justice and righteousness – forever.” (Isaiah 9:2-7)
Seven hundred years had passed and there was no sign of this king. And then, suddenly, things started to happen like a whirlwind. Angels were sent on special missions!
First: “Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth.” (Luke 1:11-13)
Then: “The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.””(Luke 1:28-33)
Then the angel went to Joseph. In Matthew 1:20 we read, “The angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife – She will give birth to a son and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
Once again, “The angel of the Lord appeared to some shepherds and the glory of the Lord shone around them and they were terrified. But the angel said to them: Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:8-11)
They were waiting for a Messiah but when He came they were suddenly filled with fear. It seemed He had to come according to their own plans or to suit their own needs and desires and this is true even today!
Of course, fear of the unexpected can be paralyzing, for both the old and young. You can imagine the fright of the elderly priest carrying out his duties in the temple when the angel suddenly appeared at the side of the altar!
Zechariah probably thought, “Am I doing something wrong? Has the angel come to punish me?” But the angel had come because Zechariah was doing something right . He was praying faithfully and his prayers had been heard!
Then there was the young virgin, engaged to be married. Mary’s life had probably been very normal up to that point: growing up, dreaming romantic dreams, keeping herself pure and living a life that pleased God, and now anticipating marriage. Then something unexpected shook up her peaceful life.
It’s easy to panic when the unexpected comes along. The best plans may go wrong. We begin to fear that every interruption, every phone call or letter, every knock at the door will bring bad news. But the angel had good news for Mary that day. She had been chosen by God to be part of a great miracle!
What about Joseph? This righteous man was engaged to a godly girl who was probably everything he had hoped for. Soon his dreams would become a reality. But he received shocking news: Mary was with child!
The fear of personal loss can be overwhelming. Joseph likely felt that his dreams had been shattered. His castles were tumbling. He thought he was going to lose Mary. Joseph wasn’t afraid of the angel, but of the personal loss he thought he would suffer.
What about us? Personal loss may bring anxiety and fear into our lives, whether it’s the loss of loved ones, money, a home, position or reputation. Fear holds back blessings. You may be afraid to risk love; you’ve been hurt before and now you don’t trust people. Or perhaps you are afraid to serve because, rather than being appreciated, you have been ignored or hurt in the past. You may even be afraid to live.
Because Joseph was a righteous man and obeyed God, he not only did not lose Mary, but he also gained much more than he had ever imagined.
Finally, let’s look at the shepherds, who were terrified when the angels appeared to them. Maybe it was the fear of meeting God that caused their reaction, or maybe the glory of God blinded them. Or maybe, just like Abraham, Job, Isaiah and Peter, they were faced with their sins and inadequacy in that moment.
The thought of meeting God unprepared can be scary. But there is good news: God loves you and sent His Son to be your Saviour. His message to you today is: Do not be afraid!
If you have made peace with God and if Jesus is your Lord, then you have nothing to fear. However, if you have not, then now is the right time to invite Him to be your Lord!
Pastor Joseph Hovsepian