Online Worship for Midweek Advent Service, December 15, 2021
Sermon for Midweek Advent Service #3 – Slowing Down Anxiety
Calvary/Marquette ● Soli Deo Gloria
Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus, the Christ. Amen.
Luke 2:10–11 (ESV)
10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
In the Name of Jesus, the Christ,
Who is able to calm our hearts and anxiety,
Dear Fellow Redeemed in His Precious Blood –
Are there stresses and anxiety during the Christmas Season? Well, duh. Unless you are a robot, there are stresses associated with the holidays. We are all a little different and are anxious about different things at different times. Still, I was surprised to find that I understand and have experienced most, if not all, of the most common holiday stresses. Those stresses include:
Busy-ness -- feeling like we can’t get everything done;
Finances – feeling like we can’t afford the season;
Expectations – expecting everything to be perfect;
Family Stress – getting into arguments with family members;
Loneliness – feeling the absence of a distant or recently deceased family member;
Exhaustion – feeling like you are burning the candle at both ends;
Inadequacy – feeling like you haven’t got done what you wanted to get done this year.
Do these things cause anxiety for you during the Christmas Season? Do you feel overwhelmed because you don’t have enough time, money or energy? Do you set too high of expectations? Do you fight with family? Do you feel lonely and inadequate?
This evening we ask God the Holy Spirit to help us slow down our anxiety. We begin by focusing on real and true Good News of the Christmas Season. We then redirect our minds from what causes us anxiety to Him who takes it away. So, we ask that God the Holy Spirt bless us through these words. “Sanctify us by your Truth, O Lord, Your Word is Truth.” Amen.
We really aren’t told all that much about the anxiety experienced by those who were present at the first Christmas, perhaps not as much would like to know. Their anxieties were surely different than ours today. If it were important that we know them, the Spirit of God would have revealed their worries. If it were vital to our faith, we would be told what the Shepherds feared while watching their flocks by night. We can only guess some of their concerns knowing that they shared our human condition.
For Joseph, the anxiety had begun 9 months earlier, when he learned that his fiancée Mary was pregnant. Mary and Joseph were betrothed, they had promised each other to be married, perhaps even setting a date. We can understand the anxiety he felt when he learned (from her) that she was expecting a child. He could only assume that she had been unfaithful. He determined to break off their engagement quietly so as not to cause damage to Mary’s reputation.
The LORD God relieved Joseph’s anxiety by revealing that Mary had not been unfaithful. He sent an angel to him in a dream to comfort him, saying (Matthew 1:20-21):
“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.”
It’s clear that Joseph loved Mary. As a loving husband, surely, he was concerned about traveling with a pregnant wife through wild and desolate places to Bethlehem. When He reached Bethlehem and found it so full of people, he was likely anxious about finding a place for his wife to have a baby.
For Mary, the anxiety had begun 9 months earlier, when she was confronted by an Angel of the LORD, who told her she would give birth a Son. The angel revealed her Son would be great and that he would rule as King David but in a Kingdom that would never end (Luke 1:26-35). He would be a Holy One and the Son of God.
It all must have seemed too good to be true. How would Joseph receive the news? Mary may have experienced childbirth, but never herself, and never in a stable. It’s not difficult to imagine her anxieties.
We don’t know the individual concerns of the Shepherds. We don’t know their names or how many shepherds there were in the same country. We don’t know what they talked about or thought about as they stood guard over their sheep by night. They were out in the fields and keeping watch for predators and wild animals on the prowl, that might be a danger to their animals. They were their livelihood and every one counted, so they watched carefully over them.
Certainly, they didn’t expect anxiety to arise in their hearts...because of a sudden supernatural visitor.
We don’t know anything about the physiology of the Holy Angels. We won’t even guess how they felt on the night that they were sent to announce the Savior’s birth. We can only view their appearance as it is described to us by the Evangelist Luke, who tells us simply that (Luke 2:9):
“An angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shown around them, and they were filled with great fear.”
We can only listen to the words of the angel and try to understand how the angel tried to chase their anxiety and fear. It was evident to the angel that the shepherds were filled with great fear. He began by telling them they had no reason to go on being afraid:
“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy
that will be for all the people.”
The Shepherds knew about natural things, earthly dangers. In the darkness of the night, they were suddenly confronted with the supernatural. We can only imagine what it was like to see an Angel of the LORD in the glory of the Lord.
How would we react if suddenly face to face with a Holy Messenger of God? All false bravado aside, we would be shaking in our boots...just like the shepherds. It’s a natural thing to ask questions like,
“Why would God send an Angel to me?”
“Have I done something to earn punishment?”
If we ask the second question, the response is natural and immediate. Again, it’s like seeing the police officer sitting in his cruiser alongside the road. We naturally hit the brakes and quickly check the speedometer! Why? We know that we have sped before. We know that we have sinned; our consciences have told us so time and again. We know we deserve God’s Wrath and punishment.
The Angel first assured them that He appeared before them to bring them ‘good news of great joy.’ He wasn’t there to take them into custody. He wasn’t there to dispatch them with a gleaming sword. He was there to give them good news. It was good news they as Jews should understand, but good news that in time would be shared with all the people.
After slowing their anxiety, the Angel told them the Good News that the world still needs to hear today:
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior,
who is Christ the Lord.
It is a message announced to Jewish Shepherds...but intended for all the people of Israel and of every nation. If they had been ‘southern angels’ they might have declared, “To Y’all is born this day.”
After years of waiting...this day finally arrived. The Good News wasn’t for tomorrow or in 10 years, it was for today and it still is for today. This day – the angel said – to Jewish Shepherds who counted it the next day already.
Why didn’t the angel just say – in Bethlehem? Why didn’t he just say, “In the little village 2 miles away.” Why call it ‘the city of David’? It was the city of King David’s birth, but there was an important connection the shepherds should make. God had told King David that the Promised Savior would arise from his family, and that his throne would be established forever, seated upon it a king not defeated by death (2 Samuel 7:12-13, 16).
The Oprah Winfrey types of our world can go on declaring that there are ‘many ways to god’ and ‘many ways to heaven.’ They can boldly point to the fact that these words are unfortunately translated, “a savior, who is Christ the Lord.” It’s a shame they don’t know the Greek or understand its grammar; not that it would change their minds.
The One born and announced to shepherds is not one of many Saviors. He is the Savior, who is Christ the Lord. The word for Savior is not attached to an indefinite clause, but a definite one. This Savior, THE Savior is Christ the Lord. There are not many Christs but one. There are not many Saviors, but one, and of Him it is said (Acts 4:12, ESV):
“...there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
Christ the Lord – even if the Shepherds didn’t remember the Prophet Micah’s prophesy (Micah 5:2) foretelling the Messiah’s birth in Bethlehem, the Angel left no doubt in their minds as to WHO had been born...it was the Christ, the Anointed One, the Messiah, the Long-Promised Savior. He was also the LORD, the eternal God.
The Angel offered this alone as the reason why the Shepherds could pack away their fear and anxiety. It is also the same reason why we need not fear or fret about anything.
Now let’s return to the things that cause anxiety for us during the Christmas Season. If you think about it, many of our stresses are of our own creation! We can do something about some of them to reduce or even remove them.
Busy-ness – When we feel like we can’t get everything done, we should ask ourselves, “Are these things necessary?” Have we been spending our time foolishly on things that have no meaning...when we could spend it on things that serve to build up our faith in Christ? Set aside time to meditate upon God’s Word and you will find calmer hearts and minds.
Finances – If we feel like we can’t afford the season, we can show our love to one another in other ways! We can start looking to purchase gifts in September if necessary and spread it out over four months rather than breaking the bank for one.
Expectations – We live in a broken world. Nothing and no one (save Jesus) is perfect. Don’t expect perfection of imperfection, be ready to laugh when things go wrong. It will be more beneficial for your heart and mind.
Family Stress – We know our faults and failings. We know those of family members. Take a breath, and seek the help of the Spirit of God by memorizing these words and put the power of God in your mind (Ephesians 4:31-32):
“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
Loneliness – Death is separation, and causes an emptiness in heart and home. We can soothe that anxiety and sorrow by remembering that the separation is temporary. For those who have died trusting in Christ are not lost, but have gone to be with Christ, which is far better (Philippians 1:23). We will see them again.
Exhaustion – We are often tired because the LORD has granted us many blessings. What can we do about exhaustion during the Christmas Season? We can choose not to stay up so late or drink too much. We can also seek His help in His Word, as the Psalmist did (Psalm 119:147):
“I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words.”
Inadequacy – So we didn’t get done what we planned, what we wanted to do in the past year. So, what. Where we have sinned, we seek God’s Forgiveness. Where we have not met our own expectations, we remember where we are today – in a broken world.
Jesus, the Christ came to remove our anxiety over the things outside of our control. He is more than a savior from our self-created anxieties.
He came to save us from what is truly our own – Our Sins by offering His sinless life as the atoning sacrifice.
He came to deliver us from the one thing we have truly and completely earned – Eternal Death by rising from death.
He came to deliver us from all of our little anxieties to Eternal Life apart from sin.
So, you want to be free of your seasonal anxieties?
See how God, for us providing, Gave His Son and life abiding;
He our weary steps is guiding From earth’s woe to heavenly joy