Christmas Message 2004
Do not be afraid!
People all over the world are living in fear. Six millions children in Africa are left orphans as their parents die of AIDS. The children are afraid. Thousands in Iraq are afraid to go outside of their homes for fear of another bomb. Israeli and Palestinian mothers and fathers worry about who the next victim of an attack will be. Refugees in the Congo are afraid of the night and another rebel attack. Many in the former Soviet republics and other countries live in fear because their religious freedom is threatened, their pastors imprisoned and churches are being closed.
Since the beginning of creation humankind, having sinned and thus being alienated from God, lives in fear. Adam and Eve hid themselves from God. God asked, Where are you Adam? And Adam replied, I was afraid. Ever since the fall, humanity has been alienated from God and thus from one another, living in fear. The German word for fear is Angst, and in English we use the same word for the heart problem angina, which has at its root the meaning of suffocation. Men and women alienated from God are afraid. We have Angst and are struggling to be free of this fear which suffocates and prevents us from the freedom for which we were created. Christ comes at Christmas to take away our fear forever! Three times in the Christmas story the Christmas angel comes to dispel fear.
Zechariah could not believe that his wife would have a child. His fear came from lack of faith and the angel came to him and to all of us who lack faith and says, Do not be afraid!
Mary was greatly troubled when she heard the angel. She was not prepared and the Christmas angel said to her and to all of us who are troubled and not prepared, Do not be afraid!
The shepherds were in the fields and were filled with fear when the glory of the Lord shone around them. They were afraid of the unknown and the Christmas angel came to them and to us and says, Do not be afraid!
Our message to the world yesterday, today and forever is: Do not be afraid for lack of faith! Do not be afraid because you are not prepared! Do not be afraid of the unknown! Why should we not be afraid? Indeed that is the Christmas message! We no longer need to live in fear For to you is born a Savior, who is Christ the Lord!
The Baptist World Alliance officers and staff join us in sending Christmas greetings to our worldwide constituency of Baptists. God has blessed us in a wonderful way this year. Even though at times we may have gone though the valley of fear, in the end, the Lord has been with Baptists worldwide and says again to us as we enter 2005, our Centennial year, Do not be afraid!
Thank you for your encouragement and support.
Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year!