(Note: I wrote this piece in 2019, with no idea of what lay ahead. Reviewing it, I thought it might prove even more relevant for Christmas 2020.)
Children nowadays text Santa with requests. Some use PowerPoint presentations. (“Last year, you brought a baby brother instead of a puppy. Seriously, Santa, you and Amazon Prime really messed up.”)
Yet, up-close-and-personal encounters continue as children assure Santa they’ve been good. He probably doesn’t do background checks, because even mean kids make out like Christmas bandits.
The majority, however, look scared.
Reading storybooks on Mommy’s lap about jolly St. Nick felt cozy and familiar.
Sitting on a big, bearded hippie’s lap doesn’t. Children inform the entire mall this wasn’t their idea. The only photos taken feature close-ups of tonsils. Or kids’ calling Uber for a ride to Bongo Bongo.
Yet loving grown-ups assure them, “Don’t be afraid.”
They’d never endanger children. Even hired Santas probably would have found easier work — like digging ditches — if they didn’t care about kids.
The children are safe. Cherished.
I find similar, odd “fear nots” in the biblical Christmas story.
When the angel Gabriel told Mary about her impossible pregnancy. When another urged Joseph to marry her, carrying a Child not his. When shepherds hit the ground before a regiment of angels. Mary, Joseph and the shepherds had real reasons to be afraid.
These strange visitors weren’t wearing wings and halos from Dollar Tree. Seeing genuine angels today while shoveling snow or brewing coffee — who wouldn’t set Olympic records for the 10-mile dash?
Besides, the angels’ words smacked of the revolutionary.
In Mary’s culture, a woman pregnant with a supposedly illegitimate Child might be stoned. A man who married her would bear her stigma, affecting relationships and his job. Having left flocks untended, the shepherds also might lose their meager livelihood.
Worse, the angels proclaimed the Baby was a King. Paranoid Herod, who killed family members, considered that high treason. Also, Romans readily crucified anyone who didn’t worship Caesar.
Crazy times. Terrible times. Yet God’s message rang out: “Fear not.”
Today, we want to call Uber and escape this scary mess. Go to Bongo Bongo. Or Neptune.
Adult Jesus did, too. He knew His enemies would kill him. Yet, His life vibrated with that theme: “Fear not.”
Jesus could have blown away his foes. Instead, He used His murder to pay for human sin. Then, He laughed at death — that thing we fear most — and rose again.
Jesus wants us to know if we believe in Him, we are safe. Now. Forever. Loved. Cherished.
He wasn’t kidding Mary, Joseph or the shepherds. He isn’t kidding us, either. Or our children and grandchildren bawling on Santa’s lap.
Joy and peace to you this Christmas.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Are you trusting Jesus for 2021 — and your forever?
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. —John 3:16 NIV