I was a boy in suburban Birmingham when a man pounded on our door one night. We came to learn he was drunk and believed our house was his house. My dad was working overtime in the nearby steel mill, so I was the man of the house. My mother and sister were terrified. The man wouldn’t listen to us asking him to go away. Then he began to walk down the stairs to the basement entrance that I remember I failed to lock that night. I raced down the inside stairs and turned the lock just as he touched the outside doorknob. Then I ran out the front door to the retired police officer next door who came and held him at bay until the police arrived.
This intruder was so tipsy he probably wasn’t much of a threat, but we didn’t know it that frightful night.
I remember another boyhood fear. Pete, the neighborhood bully, somehow got me in his crosshairs. He never touched me, but he kept telling me what he was going to do to me.
My older brother, home from college one weekend, quoted FDR to me: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” This may be where my love of presidential history came about!
The state highway department was in the process of buying our neighborhood to expand the interstate highway system, so we soon had to move, and I left Pete behind.
I’ve often wished I could see Pete again after all these years. I’ve watched every episode of “Walker, Texas Ranger” at least twice, and I believe I could defend myself!
Fear often makes its home in our lives. One website, phobialist.com, lists 530 phobias identified by psychology. Though some may sound a bit trivial, they nevertheless affect a percentage of the population.
It’s striking that an oft-repeated admonition of Christmas is “fear not.” An unnamed angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him “Fear not.” The angel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah to announce the birth of John the Baptist, and the angel said, “Fear not.” Gabriel then told Mary, “Fear not.” And yet another unnamed angel came to the shepherds in Bethlehem’s fields to say, “Fear not.”
And in each of these four cases, the individuals heard the command not to be afraid, and they obediently did what God asked them to do.
The message to modern believers is that our creator doesn’t want us to live in fear. He wants us to have faith in and obey the Christ of Christmas—the one whom Zechariah and Elizabeth’s son, John, later called the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29).