If you research what the most basic emotions are, you get a whole bunch of different answers. Some psychologists say it’s just fear, love, and rage, and that each of our other emotions is a subcategory under one of those three. Other psychologists have a much longer list of what comprises our most basic emotions. But for the majority of psychologists, fear is prominent on their list.
Some of our fears are external: We’re afraid of circumstances on the horizon that will be out of our control. We fear being personally assaulted or getting caught up in a terrorist attack on our city. Or maybe at the moment we’re only afraid of what the boss or teacher will say about our project not getting done on time.
A lot of our fears are internal. We’re afraid of not having enough money, of not keeping up with the Joneses. We fear what other people think of us and our material possessions. We have fears connected with intimacy, life purpose, physical appearances, health, and change.
What aren’t we afraid of? Our hearts and minds are filled with fear!
This time of year, we’re once again integrating the Christmas story into our fear-filled lives. It struck me afresh these past few weeks how often the command “Fear not” appears in the Bible texts connected with Christmas. The angel says to Zechariah: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard.” The same angel says to Mary: “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.” To the shepherds out in the fields keeping watch over their flocks by night, the angel says: “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.” I especially like the angel’s words to Joseph: “Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”
It’s appropriate to hear God’s messengers comfort people in the Christmas story because at Christmas we’re celebrating the arrival of the One who says most convincingly, “Do not be afraid.” To use Jesus’ actual words: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me… Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
We receive and experience Jesus’ peace as His Holy Spirit works in us. The angel said to Joseph that “what is conceived in [Mary] is from the Holy Spirit.” I think that’s part of the Christmas and New Year’s message for us, too: What is conceived in you and me this season and for 2014 is from the Holy Spirit. What have we to fear? The Spirit is present and will be at work in you and me all year long.
PS: Shout out to Leah! Thanks for your encouragement!