Scared of Christmas

Josh and I were not planning on being in the Santa picture. Each year we herd our children to the local North Pole satellite location, so they can sit on Santa’s lap, smile and “say cheese.” They are then rewarded with a candy cane.

This year turned out a little differently.

Ezra was leery about the big bearded man in the funny red suit. He refused to get anywhere near him unless I was there also. When you think of it, that has got to be an intimidating situation for a small child.

“Here, son, come into this over-stimulating gated area and sit on the lap of this giant stranger! Have fun!!”

To us parents it’s a nostalgic, pleasant experience. We see it through rose-tinted glasses and the whole scene plays out like we’re living in a snowglobe. In fact, there was even snow for this Southern California family!

Part of the reason I was unprepared for it to turn out this way was because I wasn’t viewing it as real life. We wanted to capture a memory and create a dewy-eyed moment. The smiling toddler in the picture does not reveal the fear he was feeling.

::

I have discovered something new in rereading the story of Jesus’ birth.

Have you ever noticed how often the characters are told to not be scared?

But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John. {Luke 1:13}

The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. {Luke 1:30}

…behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; {Matthew 1:20}

Fear came on all those living around them; and all these matters were being talked about in all the hill country of Judea. All who heard them kept them in mind, saying, “What then will this child turn out to be?” For the hand of the Lord was certainly with him. {Luke 1:65-66}

And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; {Luke 2:9-10}

When I look at my little, porcelain nativity scene, I see the familiar characters positioned in worship and tender recollection of the babe in the manger. There is no sense of fear or trembling portrayed in their faces or posture. It is a sentimental scene.

But this is not a fairy tale. It was real life for those involved.

A barren woman conceived after her husband had an encounter with an angel; one who stands in the throne room of God. A virgin girl was told she would be the mother of the Messiah; the long-awaited Savior of her people. A man was asked to trust God and take a woman as his wife who carried a child who was not his own; to stand by her in a society that told him to shun her. In the midst of their work, some of the lowest men in society encountered a sky-full of angels  proclaiming to them a fantastic story.

If any one of us had to live out this story, instead of just seeing it romantically displayed on cards, decor and through dramas, we would be shaking from head to foot.

An encounter with the all-powerful, all-knowing, mighty God should be awe-inspiring.

We take it out of our storage box on the day after Thanksgiving, dust it off to display for the last month of the year, then back it goes with the glass ornaments and felt snowmen until the next Christmas season. We proclaim that He is the Reason for the Season, but do we make Him our Reason for Living the remainder of the year?

Easily forgotten, amidst the traditions and sentiments of the season, is the fact that the baby we’re celebrating, the miracle we’re proclaiming, the good news for all men are more than just a nice story. Unlike the other gifts we will receive this holiday season, the gift of Jesus’ birth is one that will not tarnish, rust, break or wear out.

This Christmas, I pray that we remember the fear of the Lord.

Nativity scenes, Christmas pageants and candlelight services can be just meaningless traditions, or we can acknowledge them for what they really are:

a chance to be awed by the glory of God and encounter His presence in the midst of our lives!


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32 thoughts on “Scared of Christmas

  1. “if any one of us had to live out this story, instead of just seeing it romantically displayed on cards, decor and through dramas, we would be shaking from head to foot.”

    amen, sweet friend. i think that is the crux to the story of our Savior’s birth that we often forget about. i honestly haven’t ever realized the power. . .the impossibility. . .the crazy of the truth of the christmas story till this christmas. till the christmas where i am walking my own impossible. all 22 years before i have looked at it abstractly instead of concretely – real people, real lives, real scary, real crazy. but most importantly, real God.

    beautifully said . . .

  2. i was just talking with my girls about this…and then somehow i made them scared of angels and now madelyn doesn’t want to sleep because “scary” angels are watching over her! haha! whoops!

    This is an EXCELLENT word to approach the throne with reverence and an awareness of who He really is.

    • I was terrified of angels and all things spiritual when I was a kid. In fact, I would get scared to pray about bad dreams because I thought it would make Satan angry at me. Obviously I’ve since learned that God is bigger and greater and all, but these topics are so much different from a kids perspective. Sometimes I wonder if it’s because kids so much more easily believe in the unseen. Scary angels watching over her…hahah! That’s one for the book. :)

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  4. That’s something I am concerned about teaching our kids…”to fear the Lord” not just look at Him as your buddy/best friend…but to worship the awesome I AM! Really appreciated that one…

  5. Great prayer and wholeheartedly agree. When God shows up our first reaction is fear because of our human frailty, but He makes sure we don’t stay there but move into a reverent fear of Him. Great post and amen!

    • Oooh! I like that statement: “He makes sure we don’t stay there but move into a reverent fear of Him.” Have you ever thought about starting a blog? :) Haha! Thanks for that addition, Jason!

  6. Unfounded fear, the cause of so many wrong decisions, and paths not taken. True words Melissa.

    And the right fear, the stand back and be in awe “fear” of the Lord, directed to him, reflected by his own – and open hearted love the year round – that is Christmas.

    Thank You

  7. I love that you are in the picture. Makes it more special and your kids will love it even more as they get older and look back. It is amazing how often we have to be told to “don’t be afraid.” I’m still learning that lesson…

  8. I love picking out the themes in Scripture, like you mention here about “fear”. The “themes” make me realize that on top of being the inspired Word of God, the Bible is also a great work of literature. I love it!

    And, yeah, the whole FEAR thing…I still don’t quite have a grasp of what that means in my day to day life. I think it has something to do with being raised too far in the spectrum of “God wants to have a personal relationship with you”. While that was well intentioned, and also very TRUE, it dismisses the fear aspect. So, still trying to figure that one out myself.

    • I love how our denomination stresses relationship over religion, but I agree that sometimes people can take it too far and forget about the fear of God. I’ve always taken it to mean “to stand in awe of” or have reverence for. God doesn’t want us to be afraid of Him. You can see all throughout Scripture that the human-angel interactions begin with the words “do not be afraid.” On a smaller degree, I view it like my relationship with my parents. I love them, I am friends with them, I interact with them in a familiar way. I do not treat them the same way that I treat my friends or children. They are my parents and I respect them as such. This doesn’t mean that I care for them less, it’s just that there are boundaries and lines regarding my speech and behavior towards them that I don’t cross.

      So I see it, in my day-to-day life, as knowing that because of His love for me God will tolerate some behaviors and attitudes from me, there are boundaries and rules that dictate my behavior towards Him. He will always forgive me — giving me grace and mercy when I cross those boundaries — but to fear Him means that I will restrain myself to stay within that attitude of reverence and awe.

      This might be a good series to do though, because I have always wanted to go more in-depth into it. :)

  9. Melissa, what a beautiful post! I’ve never pieced together all the times they were told not to be scared. I love reading about how God and His angels recognized the fear and immediately spoke calming words.

    You are speaking my language here…our family has been praying to have the awe and joy of Christmas stay with us year ’round. Making Him our reason for living always…YES!

  10. Modern-day thought…Can you imagine if a young woman posted on Facebook…”um yeah, like this Angel from God came and talked to me. He told me I’m going to have a baby…and it’s God’s son.” Riiiigghhhtttt! Can you say “straight jacket”? Even though Mary’s family must have been filled with unbelief, it was such a different world. They lived their lives LOOKING for God. EXPECTING God. Today…He can hardly get our attention without knocking us down.

    Oh I like that…might have to repost it! haha

    • I thought a lot about that in my post last week. It’s so true though. We are so easily distracted and come up with other reasons for the things that happen in our life. Thanks, Laurie. :)

  11. I don’t know about you but I can understand why they say to not be afraid. If I had a giant angel near me, I’d have to declare Code Brown because I’d have to change my shorts.

    • Exactly. Hahahah – I’m going to remember Code Brown!

      I find that when I’m too focused on myself, I lose my awe and fear of God. When I really enter the stories and look away from myself, all of that bravado and self-confidence melts away and I realize how desperately I need to be told “Do not be afraid.”

  12. I love all the admonitions to not be afraid. Your words made me think that many of the pretty pictures we see are on the other side of the angels. They are on the side of fulfillment. Sure—there were many things ahead that could still induce fear, especially for Mary and Joseph, but they also had so many concrete examples of what God was actively doing that they could put fear aside. I have so many of those examples in my life; I need to remember the command to not be afraid.

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