Inadequacy and inferiority are powerful words, aren't they? For many people, these words are their worlds. But inadequacy and inferiority are just the fruit of the root of a more destructive emotion called fear.
Did you know the word fear is used in the Christmas story more than any other event in the Bible? A crippling fear permeated Israel at the time of the birth of Christ. And, in this atmosphere of crippling fear, the first Christmas came.
Let's explore some Christmas encounters with real people that framed the first Christmas.
Our first couple, named Elizabeth and Zacharias, were childless after many years of marriage. They were well beyond conceiving a child. Their friends felt sorry for them. (Luke 1:58). They couldn't understand why they couldn't conceive a child. The feeling of inadequacy followed them day and night. Sound familiar?
Zacharias was a Levite priest. One day as he ministered in the temple, the angel Gabriel appeared to him. Zacharias was terrified. The angel announced to Zacharias that Elizabeth would have a baby and name the baby John. Zacharias reminded the angel that he and Elizabeth were too old for that sort of thing. Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, shut Zacharias's mouth until the baby was born. Maybe Gabriel turned off Zacharias' voice so his doubt-filled words wouldn't mess up God's plan for the birth of John the Baptist.
Zacharias' name means 'God remembers.' Elizabeth's name means – 'His oath.' How about that? Put those names together – God remembers His oath.
His oath to whom? The people of Israel that He would send a prophet in the spirit and power of Elijah. In fulfilling his pledge to Israel, God fulfilled His oath to Elizabeth and Zacharias that they would have a baby who would be the Savior's forerunner. God's perfect love administered straight to them, cast out their fear expressed in their feelings of inadequacy.
Second, let's consider Mary. Mary is the future mother of Jesus, who is engaged to Joseph. Everything was going well in the engagement, and then there came a suddenly. Gabriel suddenly comes in her door and says, "Hail, favored one. The Lord is with you." Then he says, "Mary, don't be afraid. You will conceive and bear a son. You will name the son Jesus,"
Mary is freaking out! She has never been with a man. And, she is a lowly woman bond-slave. Mary was thinking, "Who am I? God doesn't hang around bond-slaves like me. What will Joseph think of me? What will other's think of me? What will happen to me next?" What is the root of all these concerns? She is expressing her feeling of inferiority as a woman bond-slave. Inferiority comes from fear. Have you ever felt inferior? If so, this real-life example is for you.
Seeing Mary's fear and confusion, Gabriel assures her that he is real, and his message is valid. It wasn't Mary's merit that caused this. It is God's favor. In essence, Gabriel says, "Mary, the Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of God will overshadow you, even though you are a bond-slave. There's nothing impossible for God. Mary, you aren't inferior. You're a child of God, and God doesn't make junk!" Do you see that? God's perfect love given to Mary cast out her fear of being inferior.
There's a verse in the Bible that explains what is going on in these exchanges. "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love." (I John 4:18). God's love cast out Elizabeth's and Zacharias' inadequacy, and then God's love gave them sufficiency. God's love cast out Mary's inferiority complex and then gave her kingdom status. No one is inferior to God. And he can do the same for you and me too! That's what Christmas is all about.
With Christmas just days away, let's consider the long journey Jesus made for Elizabeth, Zacharias, and Mary, and us as well. Author Max Lucado says, "He went from commanding angels to sleeping in the straw. From holding stars to clutching Mary's finger. The palm that held the universe took the nail of a soldier. The tongues He made mocked Him. The mouths He formed spit on Him. The hands He made would crucify Him."
Would you have made those mouths, tongues, and hands if you knew what they would do that to you? Why would Jesus do that? God's love caused Jesus to reach out into other's lives to set captives free. When God's love comes, fear goes. On Christmas Eve, 'the hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight.'
God's love puts others before itself. To Jesus, your soul was more important than His blood. Your eternal life was more important than His earthly life. Your place in heaven was more important than His place in heaven. He gave up His place in heaven so you could have your place in heaven.
Saint Irenaeus wrote, "Because of His boundless love, He became what we are so that He might make us what He is."
This Christmas, don't just have a Merry Christmas, have a Mary Christmas. And remember, no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.