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25. Dezember 1999
Luke 2:1-4, The Message that Banishes Fear
Eben K. Nhiwatiwa
Sermon Title: The Message that Banishes Fear
Text: Luke 2:1-4 (King James)
Fear! Fear! Fear! Who is that fortunate person who has not yet experienced fear in one way or the other? Think of it, fear seems to be engulfing people s minds all the time. What makes people to fear may be different but it is fear all the same. For us in Africa it could be fear of disease, fear of hunger or even fear of not being assured of safe and clean drinking water. What can I say about fear of another war in this or that country. It is total fear of whether I can still have life and existence into the following day.
In the biblical world the appearance of angles was one cause of fear. To fear God was indeed a way of showing respect. Thus when the angels appeared to the shepherds, there was reason to fear. And yet this assurance that there is nothing to fear has been given at numerous occasions as recorded in the scriptures. Just to mention a few, in Genesis 15:1 the Lord assured Abram in a vision, Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great. (RSV) To Gideon the Lord told him in no uncertain terms that even though he had seen the angel face to face, Gideon would not die. Peace be to you; do not fear, you shall not die. (Judges 6:23b RSV)
These shepherds had reason to fear. They were not Temple rabbis who could have the honour and privilege of receiving divine messengers. They were a people of an insignificant class of that society. It was like they raised the usual why me type of question. If angels would appear today with such dramatic presence, most of us will be afraid. Whether angels appear or not, the truth is most people live in fear. It is this common fear, the fear of height name it, which I would like to focus on in this sermon. What do you fear? Why do you fear? Who tells you not to fear? What is that word of assurance which makes you have a nice and peaceful sleep?
I will never forget the night my wife and I had to search for those small harmless lizards which are common companions in huts and houses especially from my observation in Zimbabwe. My wife vowed that she was not going to sleep in the house until we located the little creature and threw it out. We searched, or should I say I searched every corner of the house but to no avail. Fortunately fatigue and the natural demands of the need to sleep took toll on wife and we both slept. I really had nothing to fear but my wife went to bed in fear. It could be fear of lizards, and to be honest with you, I do not know what your sources of fear are? Whatever is the case it is all the same for you, the cause of fear.
It could be fear of whether a visit to the physician will make you come out with a clean health balance sheet. What about that side pain which appears to be aggravated by an ordinary meal? Why is my spouse not cheerful these days, even on my birthday, you reminiscent. What is going on in his/her mind? Divorce? Sure such thoughts are cause for fear. As I write this sermon it is just about three weeks away before my daughter sit for her Cambridge School Certificate Examinations in October 1999 here in Zimbabwe. Living in a country where opportunities for higher education are still few, I have all the reason to fear. I fear for the future of my child if she does not make it. What do you fear? When I was still an upstart in society I feared that I would not be able to provide for my family. Now that God has blessed me and may family with the little we have, I fear that a thief might come at night and steal my Datsun 120Y the make of 1978!
In the midst of such myriad of fear inducing circumstances, is it not true that we need someone with authority t assure us that there is nothing to fear? We look around in search of security. Sometimes we get the word of assurance from national governments, if you still trust them. At times we get this voice of assurance from the United Nations that there is nothing to fear because all nations have pledged to life in peace. Or it is close at home and all that matters is a word of love and concern from a member of the family and we feel assured. There is nothing to fear. The problem comes when we realise that these sources of authority in giving assurance can fail, have failed and will fail. Who then should tell you and me not to fear?
Do not fear I am seeing you, she told me. It was during summer night in the month of December. December nights can be pitch dark in Zimbabwe. My mother stood at the door of the hut and sent me to borrow some salt from an aunt. She knew very well that I had all the reason to fear in a village in which the roar of a hyene could come from nowhere. But my mother confidently assured me, Do not fear I am seeing you. Little did I figure out, until later on in my life, that my mothers eyes could not penetrate that darkness as ran along the path leading to my aunts place. Not only that, my mother had another fatal limitation, she was a mortal. As I write she had since died and I wonder who then can still tell me not fear because I am seeing you?
Blessed were the shepherds who had the message of assurance from the angels, the messengers of Got. We must hear the word of comfort from non other than God himself. God and only him can tell us not fear. If you have been failed by other sources of assurance, turn to God for an everlasting message. Got does not fail anyone.
What is that message which makes one not to fear? The shepherds had nothing to fear not because there were any security forces promised to them. They had nothing to fear because the angels had brought the good news. Christmas is about the good news which comes to us in the midst of all that which cause fear in us. I can imagine the angels coming to some helpless communities now full of orphaned children of parents who died from AIDS-related illnesses, with the same message saying Fear not. Yes to those of us whose routine is to attend one funeral after another because of the AIDS pandemic, the message is the same as received that night by the shepherds, Do not be afraid; for behold I bring you good news of great joy which will come to all the people... If the shepherds were overwhelmed with fear, today our reaction could be one of disbelief. How can we not fear when demographic indicators for 2010 predict life expectancy for Zimbabwe at 38.8? And this prediction is not far worse when compared to other countries in southern Africa. And yet we are assured Do not fear. Why God? Why should we not fear? Because a Saviour has been born to us!
Now the issue of a Saviour is worth focusing on. The world has seen people who have done great deeds in the name of saving humanity. Some have even coined some slogans which encapsulate how solutions to human problems could be hammered out. Some have taken up arms to fight for freedom promising that when they themselves take up the reigns of power Justice will flow like water to use the words of the Lord through the prophet Amos. In Africa as in other parts of the world, we have men and women who have appeared among their people as good news. But as mortals they failed, are failing, will fail. Jesus Christ is the Saviour who does not fail. He is the only one who can banish fear from the face of the earth. Listen to Him. In Christmas we celebrate the birth of the Christ, a Saviour who is not for the spur of the moment. The Saviour is the same who said to the disciples Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. (St John 14:1 RSV)
In Jesus Christ we have nothing to fear. As in the words of the Reggae singer, Bob Marley No woman, No Cry, Everything is gonna be alright. The good news dispels fear because the message comes from God and not from mortals. The Message banishes fear because it is about the birth of a Saviour for all times and for all people. it is a message which banishes fear because the message is about Gods love and care for humanity. In the words of the United Methodist Church Hymn the message is about how Got will take Care of You. This is the message to the shepherds, this is the same message to you and me. Why should we fear in the presence of God among us?
With the angels and the shepherds let us rise from tending whatever it is and march on to see with our own eyes. Let us stand and join in the praises. let us continue, and I invite you to continue getting on top of mountains and tell others about the birth of the Saviour. Sing! Sing! Joy to the world the Lord Has come. The One who banishes fear has come. AMEN.
Rev. Dr. Eben K. Nhiwatiwa, Africa University, Mutare, Zimbabwe.
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