This Christmas season we are talking about fear and how to overcome it.  Does that sound a little strange to you?  I mean these Christmas Series are supposed to be about joy, and peace and well, you know…light and happy things as we move towards this special holiday where we laugh, and hopefully have family get-togethers, and open gifts, and celebrate the birth of our Savior!  And I will tell you joy, and peace are good and wonderful parts of Christmas for sure but this year, but I’m not sure there is a more relevant topic to discuss than fear.  And we can say it, 2020 has brought a lot of that to the table, and now that we have endured all of 50 weeks of this year, while we still have many unknowns swirling around us I think once again we can confidently say that we are having the right conversation at the right time!

I thought Ken did a great job last week kicking off our series and if you remember he specifically walked us through Mary’s story and how she overcame the fear of feeling not good enough but he also set the table for us to see that fear actually comes up a lot in the Christmas Story.  Did that surprise you?  Well, when we try to place ourselves in the shoes of those involved it’s pretty easy to see why they were so afraid!  And today I am going to be hanging out with you, looking at Joseph’s story and the fears that he had to overcome but before we do that, it’s Better Together Sunday, which means that we have a wonderful opportunity to talk to our children about fear today.  I think in all the crazy of 2020 we may forget how much uncertainty these children are processing in our world today.  I would like them and really all of us to really reflect on one specific verse today…it’s the verse at the heart of this series.  It’s where we get to see a very special gift that Jesus leaves for us.  So let’s take a moment and talk through fear and how to overcome it before we dive into Joseph’s story today.

Children’s Lesson for Better Together:

So can anyone tell me what their favorite part of Christmas is?  For some people they may think of the family gatherings.  For some people it’s the Christmas lights or the Christmas music.  For some people it’s the decorating, or maybe it’s the Christmas Cookies!  I could get behind that one!  I love the food around the holidays…maybe a little too much.  Well Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus!  It’s really the world’s biggest birthday party which is awesome!  So, while we are in church and we will all admit that we love Jesus and celebrating His birth into this world…we can admit it…the best part of Christmas is the presents isn’t it?  I mean there is something really exciting about Christmas and getting to open up those gifts!  I can remember waking up on Christmas Day and coming down the stairs as fast as those footy pajamas would allow me to see what was under the tree…and I can still remember one year, coming down those stairs to see a Super-Cliffhanger Race Track…it was amazing!  We can say it, we love the presents and I want you to know something…Jesus left us an amazing gift.  He actually told us that He was leaving this for us and we can read about it in John 14…

John 14:27 “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” NLT

Jesus said He was leaving this amazing gift, it’s the gift of peace of mind and heart.  He also says that no one on this planet can give us this gift which means it’s really special, and really rare, and shows just how much He loves us to give us something that no one else could give.  Now, that is a Christmas present!  Am I right?  So, while we love seeing the presents under the tree…it would be a real bummer if we didn’t get to unwrap them! I mean we want to play with them right?  Well I want you to see how you can unwrap this amazing gift from Jesus.  It’s an important one because at times, we all feel afraid. Jesus is saying when you unwrap this awesome gift, you do not have to be afraid anymore!  So here’s three quick ways to unwrap this awesome gift from Jesus.

First – You accept Jesus into your life and heart.  If you have never asked Jesus into your life, you can simply pray and ask Him to be part of your life and He will be!

Second – You spend time with Jesus every day!  You pray and talk to Him.  When you are afraid you tell Him!  When you are happy you thank Him!  When you are sad you can tell Him that too!  You also read the Bible…which is God’s truth.  The more good things that you put into your life; the less room for fear has in your life!  It’s so important to spend time with God every day!

Third – When you are afraid, you need to remember this gift Jesus gave you!  I can still remember my racetrack, and that was over 35 years ago, and this gift is way better than that!   So, do you know what makes this gift so special?  It’s because when Jesus is part of your life, you are never alone and oftentimes fear hits the hardest when we are alone or at least feel alone…and the beauty of living a life with Jesus is that we are never alone anymore!  We have Him living inside us!  He is always there with us!  In fact, at Christmas we hear Jesus at times called Immanuel, don’t we?  Well that means “God with us” and comes right out of the Bible!

Listen it’s Christmas time which is awesome and we all love opening those presents…well this year, with all the challenges you are facing at school and in life we want you to see that Jesus actually left us a really special gift…it’s a gift only He can give, it’s the gift of peace of mind and heart.

Back to Our Study of The Christmas Story:

You know fear is a real thing that we all deal with, and I think this year has brought a lot of fears and unknowns to us.  I mean even last week, I was getting ready for church and from Thursday evening into Friday morning I was receiving calls about the pandemic and possible Covid-19 cases that may or may not have brought exposure to MRG the week before and I will be honest with you, I felt some fear in that…and had a lot of thoughts racing through my mind…and it’s just been that kind of year hasn’t it?  I mean we just seem to have one hurdle to jump after another and it has brought a lot of fear to the forefront of our minds and hearts.  That’s why I love that we are really diving into the Christmas story and looking at the lives of Mary, and Joseph, and the others involved and seeing that they had a lot of fear to deal with.  For so many of us I think we can really nice up the Christmas story…but we need to see what all they were dealing with because it’s so relevant to our lives!  We can learn and relate to the fears they had to deal with and we can also learn how to overcome these fears!  Remember that amazing gift Jesus said we can have, and we should have if we are centering our lives on Him!

John 14:27 “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” NLT

I don’t know about you, but this sounds like an amazing gift from Jesus that I want to unwrap this Christmas season and beyond in my life too!  That lesson wasn’t just for the kids!  What a gift!  So, let’s get into this study of the Christmas story today.

Last week Ken did a great job of walking us through Mary’s story and it really is a stunner isn’t it?  When you start to process how she must have felt…I mean there she is maybe 12 or 13 years old and she has just been told she will give birth to the Savior of the Universe!  Can you imagine the pressure that she felt in that moment?  Can you think back to what you were doing at that age?  I’m guessing it wasn’t raising God!  I have a 12-year-old daughter right now and I can’t imagine an angel showing up in the middle of her making a Tiktok video and dropping this news on her!  I mean wow!  Mary’s story is incredible, and we saw last week that she felt fear…specifically the fear of not being good enough.  Imagine how inadequate she must have felt in that moment…as the angel unfolds this for her…

Luke 1:28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32 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, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” NIV

But what is amazing is how she overcame her fear.  Mary surrendered her life to the Lord, which is so awesome.  Look at how Mary responds…

Luke 1:38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.  NIV

What an amazing response to what had to be one of the most intimidating moments of all time!  Mary surrenders her life to the Lord; this is how she overcomes the fear of not being good enough.  Now today we get to look at Joseph’s story and once again I want you to try to place yourself in Joseph’s situation because this poor guy has a lot to process too.  We can find his story in Matthew 1 and 2 and it really starts fast…as we get right into what Joseph was going to have to process.  As we read this, remember, this man loves Mary.  They are engaged to be married.  They are moving through that process, when some challenging news hits, which would have crushed him about his fiancé.

Matthew 1:18 This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.  NLT

So let’s put ourselves in Joseph’s shoes here.  He is engaged to be married to Mary.  Their whole future is in front of them.  He is in love.  He is excited about their future together, and then this bomb is dropped on him.  She comes to him to let him know that she is pregnant…and he knows for a fact that it couldn’t be his child so without educating the children too much here today, let’s just say Joseph knows it has to be someone’s child!  Then Mary lets him know that the Holy Spirit placed the baby inside her.  Now, I don’t know why God chose to do it this way, but an angel has spoken to Mary…but Joseph hasn’t heard from God on this at all yet.  Joseph hears about this and now has to process what to do and if you notice in verse 19 there he has decided they should break up and he is such a good guy that he wants to do it in a way that doesn’t bring her shame or embarrassment.  Joseph is crushed by this news, and also knows in his mind at this point that his soon to be wife has been unfaithful and has come to him with an incredibly crazy story about how this pregnancy happened.  Instead of losing it, he has chosen to end this relationship in the kindest way possible…then this happens.

Matthew 1:20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”22 All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet: 23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.'”24 When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. 25 But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus. NLT

So Joseph is heart broken and still doing his best to end this relationship in a way that doesn’t destroy Mary.  He knows this is a major scandal.  He knows that people are going to be talking up a storm on this one.  He was struggling and trying to figure out how to get out of this mess before it really went public, when God sends an angel to talk with Joseph and confirms to Joseph that Mary is indeed carrying God’s child, and that He needs to move forward with this marriage, and that Joseph is to name Him Jesus, and that He will save the world!  This is amazing Mary and Joseph had a lot to process and a lot to figure out, they are to be the parents of the Savior of the Universe!  But did you check out how the angel talks to him?  Just as Mary was told, and we will see just as the shepherds will be told as they come face to face with an angel; “Hey, Joseph do not be afraid…”

Matthew 1:20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit.” NLT

What does Joseph have to be afraid of?  Well let’s think this through, he is trying to trust the women he loves who just came to him with this crazy story about how she got pregnant.  Even if it is true, he will spend his life dealing with the gossip, and whispers about this scandalous moment…and if it is true he, like Mary has to raise and protect…the Savior of the Human Race!  So, Joseph has a lot to process from every insecurity inside a man, to the overwhelming responsibility in front of him and I want you to see how Joseph overcomes this fear of scandal and rejection and mistrust.  He obeys His Heavenly Father.

Matthew 1:24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus. NIV

Joseph does what God asks of Him and you will see this time and time again, it’s this obedience from Joseph that leads them but also protects and provides for them as this story of Jesus’ birth unfolds.  Joseph puts his emotions aside and does what God asks…he obeys God.  This is actually the first of four times that we see God speak to Joseph and Joseph do exactly as He was told, and it literally protects them in the process.

After Jesus is born in Bethlehem, some time goes by before the wisemen come to visit and bring Jesus gifts.  They unknowingly alert King Herod to the fact that a King has been born in his kingdom!  This is a threat and Herod wants this young King dead!  So, after visiting Jesus in the stable and leaving, the angel appears to Joseph again this time telling him to make a move with his young family.

Matthew 2:13 After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said. “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” NLT

So once again what does Joseph do?  He obeys…without hesitation and without question, he does what His Heavenly Father asks of him and it protects Jesus from the rage of King Herod.

Matthew 2:14 That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary, his mother, 15 and they stayed there until Herod’s death. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: “I called my Son out of Egypt.” 16 Herod was furious when he realized that the wise men had outwitted him. He sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, based on the wise men’s report of the star’s first appearance. NLT

The angel appears to Joseph two more times here in Matthew 2 and I want you to see it.  This time letting him know it’s time to return and then where to go when there was more danger…

Matthew 2:19 When Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt. 20 “Get up!” the angel said. “Take the child and his mother back to the land of Israel, because those who were trying to kill the child are dead.”21 So Joseph got up and returned to the land of Israel with Jesus and his mother. 22 But when he learned that the new ruler of Judea was Herod’s son Archelaus, he was afraid to go there. Then, after being warned in a dream, he left for the region of Galilee. 23 So the family went and lived in a town called Nazareth. This fulfilled what the prophets had said: “He will be called a Nazarene.” NLT

God speaks to Joseph and how does he respond each time?  He obeys and does what God is asking of him.  It’s really interesting because it comes out in a sentence or two, but these are not little things being asked of him!  Let’s think about these different moments and how Joseph responds.

  1. “Hey Joseph, I want you to go through with your marriage to your pregnant wife, and raise the Son of God, naming Him Jesus because He is the savior of the world.” This is not an easy ask is it?  I mean there are many more questions that need to be answered, and a lot of things Joseph will have to deal with, but he does what the Lord asks of him.
  2. “Hey Joseph, I want you to pack up right now and head to Egypt from Bethlehem.” Again, this isn’t a small task with a baby and a young bride.  It isn’t like they were jumping in the car and heading to Egypt this was probably a 200 mile journey on foot with soldiers hunting and slaughtering babies…uprooting your life and heading into the unknown of Africa…again there seems to be more questions that need asked and answered, but Joseph does what is asked of him…he obeys.
  3. “Hey Joseph, Herod is dead and you can head back to Israel now.”Again, this time he wakes up and has to look at his wife and say, ok time to uproot our lives again…this time we are going north to Israel.  Joseph responds without hesitation they get up and go.  He obeys.
  4. “Hey Joseph, there is still danger in Israel now it’s from Herod’s son, so I’d like you to make your way to and settle down in a new town called Nazereth.”  Once again Joseph without question does what is asked of him and they settle down in Nazereth and start their new life together…again he obeys.

Joseph had a lot of fear to overcome, and he did that with an obedience that could only come from a deep trust in God.

So all through this Holiday Season as we make our way towards Christmas in what has been one of the most intense, and confusing, and challenging years any of us have spent on this planet we are looking at fear, and how to overcome it.  Fear is real.  We all deal with it and need to overcome it…and we want you to understand something.  Jesus told us that He left this incredible gift for us, it’s under the tree and you can absolutely open it this year and have it with you moving forward in life!  Do you remember this from earlier?

John 14:27 “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” NLT

The gift of peace of mind and heart…the gift that can only come from God.  What an amazing gift that we can all walk in!  So far in this series we have looked at two of the main players in the Christmas story and how they were able to unwrap this amazing gift and overcome their fears.  Mary was able to unwrap this amazing gift and overcome the fear of not feeling good enough by surrendering her life to God.  Joseph was able to unwrap this amazing gift and overcome the fear of scandal, rejection, and criticism by trusting and obeying God.

So how about you?  How are you doing with this?  Are you experiencing peace of mind and heart?  If you are not, do you understand that Jesus says you can, but the only way to experience this gift is through Him.  You can’t find it any other way. So, let’s close with a few questions that may help us unwrap this incredible gift this Christmas season.

  • Do you feel fear or anxiety right now about something in life?  What is it?
  • Have you taken this fear to your Heavenly Father or are you trying to handle it on your own?  If you are trying to handle it on your own, it leads to a follow up question.  Which is, how is that going for you?
  • Can you surrender your life to God like Mary?  If the answer is no, you need to ask yourself why.
  • Can you trust and obey like Joseph?  If the answer is no, again ask yourself why that is.
  • What do you turn to for peace of heart and mind when you are afraid or dealing with fear?  Is it Jesus or something of this world?  Alcohol maybe?  Your own strength or efforts?  Drugs?  Maybe a nice shopping spree for some new stuff or a long vacation?  Maybe it’s an escape into solitude to Netflix and chill?  Maybe it’s food?  Maybe your kids?  What is it?  Remember Jesus said that peace of mind and heart doesn’t come from this world, it only comes from Him.
  • Are you spending time with God on a daily basis?  Are you praying and reading God’s word and allowing his truth and love to flood your thoughts and heart which leaves no room for fear?

Listen, you need to take a moment right now and be honest with yourself.  If you are walking in fear, struggling with things you can’t control like the future, or what tomorrow brings with his pandemic, or whatever it may be and you are unable to rest, sleep, or relate to people in a healthy way and you just feel like it’s all falling apart as your struggle to hold life together, it is a clear sign that your relationship with God is not centered on God right now.  Fear will continue to tell you different lies, but the truth is that a life centered on Christ allows us to open this amazing present that Jesus left for us, the gift of peace of heart and mind.  Please use this Christmas season, as a time to lay your fears at Jesus’ feet and accept and unwrap this amazing gift that only comes from God.