“A No Fear Year”
It happens in a split-second, but it’ll change the way you see “A Charlie Brown’s Christmas” forever.
Last year was the 50th anniversary of A Charlie Brown Christmas. I know I already showed a clip from it last month, so I am not going to show it again.
I was in grade school back when they still performed Christmas pageants in schools (50+years ago), a lot of schools performed a version of the Charlie Brown Christmas. Whoever was chosen to play the part of Linus had to memorize Luke 2:8-14.
In the 50 times I have watched A Charlie Brown Christmas there is one important thing I didn’t notice, and didn’t notice until it was pointed out to me a few weeks ago. Right in the middle of speaking, Linus drops his blanket.
Charlie Brown is best known for his uniquely striped shirt, and Linus is most associated with his ever-present security blanket. Throughout the story of Peanuts, Lucy, Snoopy, Sally and others all work to no avail to separate Linus from his blanket. And even though his security blanket remains a major source of ridicule for the otherwise mature and thoughtful Linus, he simply refuses to give it up.
Until this moment. When he simply drops it. In that climactic scene when Linus shares “what Christmas is all about,” he drops his security blanket, and I am now convinced that this was intentional. Most telling is the specific moment he drops it: when he utters the words, “fear not” <at :38 seconds).
Looking at it now, it is pretty clear what Charles Schultz was saying, and it’s so simple
- The birth of Jesus separates us from our fears.
- The birth of Jesus frees us from the habits we are unable to break ourselves.
- The birth of Jesus allows us to simply drop the false security we have been grasping so tightly too and learn to trust and cling to Him instead.
Stepping into 2017 can be scary with its economic and political insecurity, with the threats of violence and terrorism. Most of us find ourselves grasping for something temporal to give us a sense of security, whatever that thing may be: from possessions to people, from attitudes to assets.
As we step into 2017 we may find it very difficult to “fear not.” But in the midst of fear and insecurity, this simple cartoon image from 1965 continues to live on as an inspiration for us to seek true peace and true security in the one place it has always been and can always still be found, in Jesus Christ.
Four times in the Christmas story, the message from God to man is “fear not”. It is a continual exhortation from Genesis to Revelation, given by angels, prophets, apostles, and Christ Himself. The command is clear and distinct — “fear not“. Since these records are written “for our learning”, an examination of them will prove helpful in helping us have a No Fear Year!
Fear Not… God Answers Prayer Luke 1:5-22
The first scene involves what started out to be a regular day in the life of a priest named Zacharias (Luke 1:5-22). It was the hour of prayer, and outside the temple a multitude of people were praying. Inside the Temple, Zacharias was engaged in his priestly task in front of the altar. Suddenly there appeared an angel of the Lord, standing on the right side of the altar. The moment Zacharias saw this, he was startled to say the least and “was gripped with fear” (verse 12).
Before we jump to the conclusion that this was a natural reaction, let us notice the first words of the angel to the priest. Somehow we think the angel would deliver the important message first and then make personal reference to encourage Zacharias. But this is not the case. The first words of the angel were “fear not Zechariah, your prayers have been heard.” Luke 1:13. Only when those encouraging words were spoken did the angel give the tremendous message concerning prayers heard and now to be answered.
Fear not, ____________, your prayers have been heard. That is the repeated promise of the Scriptures: God hears our prayers and answers them. BUT we have to understand this comes with a qualifier.
Jesus seems to be wildly generous in his offer: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” John 15:7. To “remain” in him and have his words remain in us means we conduct their lives aware of him, relying on him, listening to what he says. Then we’re able to ask him whatever we want as we ask. Here the same qualifier: “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us — whatever we ask — we know that we have what we asked of him.” 1 John 5:14-15. God answers our prayers according to his will (and according to his wisdom, his love for us, his holiness, etc.), and when we ask according to his nature and will.
Where we trip up is assuming we know God’s will, because a certain thing makes sense to us! We assume that there is only one right “answer” to a specific prayer, assuming certainly THAT would be God’s will. And this is where it gets tough. We live within the limits of time and limits of knowledge. We have only limited information about a situation and the implications of future action on that situation. God’s understanding is unlimited. How an event plays out in the course of life or history is only something he knows. And he may have purposes far beyond what we could even imagine. So, God is not going to do something simply because we determine that it must be his will. BUR his promise is to hear and answer according to what is best for us.
Fear Not… God Loves You Dearly Luke 1:26-38
Later in the same chapter, another angelic visitation is recorded (Luke 1:26-38). On this occasion a young lady was suddenly confronted by an angel, who said, “Greeting, you who is highly favored, the Lord is with you.” At once she was overcome with fear, coupled with concern as to the meaning of the words spoken. But the angel immediately spoke again: “Fear Not, Mary; you have found favor with God.” Or as the Phillips version puts it “God loves you dearly” (Luke 1:30 Phillips).
Mary’s response to the promise of a son is interesting and vital: “I am the Lord’s servant…. May your word to me be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:38). In the light of the customs of the day, this was no idle statement. Her dedication could have cost her dearly, but she was trusting in God’s love and goodness that he had her best interest at heart. May we also trust in God’s love and goodness. Fear Not God LOVES you dearly!
Fear Not… God Will Guide You
At this point the incident in Matthew chapter 1 takes place. Here we see the effect of the angel’s visit to Joseph. He was very concerned by the unusual turn of events in the life of his fiancée Mary. How wonderful to realize that God knew this, and had a message of encouragement for him.
In a dream the angel of the Lord appeared unto Joseph, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife” (Matthew 1:20). The angels message to Joseph and to us is “Fear not the present circumstances; don’t react to them, but listen to and follow God’s guidance.
God’s promise to us is this:“I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.” Psalm 32:8. God tells us: Do not let the scary circumstance you find yourself in guide but let my words guide you
Fear Not… God Will SaveYou
Now the fourth scene in the Christmas story takes us to the moonlit hills of Bethlehem. It was here the temple flocks were kept until needed as sacrifices for the worship of God. One night the shepherds were startled by an angelic appearance. The record states that the shepherds “were terrified” (Luke 2:9). The first thing the angel said to them was “Fear not… behold… a Savior has been born.” (Luke 2:10-11). God’s answer to fear is the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Four times in the Christmas story the wonderful encouraging command is given — “fear not”. God did not want them to live in fear nor does he want us living in fear.
But these are not the only references to Fear Not…the Bible 365 fear nots, do not be afraid. A Fear Not for every day of the year.
Every one of us is challenged or tempted to fear. Fear comes from not knowing who to trust, not knowing what’s going to happen, whether you’re going to be taken care of or not. You need to know God will take care of you because you’re His. You belong to God. How does someone belong to someone else? Somebody has to pay in order to own something, and God paid with the blood of Jesus so He could own you and I. And it’s good for Him to own us, because He takes care of the things He owns. No need to fear in the New Year for God
will answer your prayers,
loves you dearly,
is committed to guiding you.,
And will ultimately save you.