For most people entering the Christmas season, first thoughts go to shopping, travel, party plans, church events, and other things that go along with and help us prepare for the celebration of Christmas. But this year, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, we have something else to think about — terror attacks.
DHS released a statement saying the season brings “opportunities for violent extremists,” and they warned against “terrorist-inspired individuals” attacking holiday events in the United States this year. The State Department issued a similar warning for U.S. citizens traveling in Europe during the holidays.
Christmas events make an obvious terrorist target. Primarily, they are Christian in nature. That automatically draws the hatred of radical jihadists.
But just as important, Christmas-related activities are easily hit. They are what security experts call “soft targets.” This week at Ohio State, we learned again the vulnerability of people on a sidewalk. During holidays, ordinary sidewalks can be as packed as those that lined the Boston Marathon when it was bombed.
People can be crammed into stores, as well. In some locations, shoppers gather by the thousands. But stores have few if any of the special protections of government buildings, or airports. The store’s goal is to get people in. They don’t want barriers to customers.
Other holiday gatherings can be even more crowded. Parties, church events, and seasonal concerts place thousands of people inside soft target venues. That’s like blood in the water to a group of sharks.
And yet, if we live in fear, we not only let the terrorists win, we directly disobey God.
Isaiah 41:10 says, “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (NKJV)
Think about the identity of the Speaker. It is the God who said, “Let there be light: and there was light.” (Genesis 1:3 KJV)
It is the same God who said, “I have made the earth, and created man on it. I — My hands — stretched out the heavens, and all their host I have commanded.” (Isaiah 45:12 NKJV)
King David said, “His greatness is unsearchable.” (Psalms 145:3 KJV)
The God who says “Fear not,” is perfect and great. His power is so complete, that Jesus said, “With God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26 KJV)
That is the God Who says to you and me, “Fear not, for I am with you.” He says not to fear, then gives the perfect reason for not fearing. He is with us. The God to Whom “all things are possible” is with us.
Amid a world in chaos and pain, we need not be dismayed. Why? He answers by saying, “For I am your God.” That doesn’t mean we chose Him. It means He chose us. The God who “made the earth, and created man on it” chose to identify with us as our God.
And then He makes a series of promises so rich and beautiful they are beyond the greatest poet’s ability to express. Yet He says it in a few simple words. “I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”
The God Whose “greatness is unsearchable” gives you and me an intimate, highly personalized promise to strengthen, help, and uphold us.
It is especially comforting to know that He does the upholding. He doesn’t depend on my strength or my righteousness. In fact, He says that my righteousness is like a pile of filthy rags. Isaiah 64:6 says, “All our righteousnesses are like filthy rags.” (NKJV)
A filthy rag is nothing to be clothed in — especially for an audience with the King. But that’s the best we can do on our own. So, He does something extraordinary. He provides us a wedding garment of perfect purity; a garment of His own making. (Matthew 22:10-14) He clothes us in His righteousness.
2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (NKJV)
Your own righteousness will not uphold you, but “the righteousness of God in Him” is perfect. That’s how He can say, “I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”
Isaiah 41:13 continues the thought begun in verse 10. “For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.’” (NKJV)
Who does the holding? He does. The Lord your God holds your right hand, and He says to you personally, “Don’t be afraid. I’ve got you. I’m holding you in the strong right hand of My righteousness.”
Shopping… cooking… eating… gifts… plays… parties.… They can all be wonderful. But we also face difficulties during this season. Either way, remember why we celebrate. A child was born. He bought salvation for all who will receive it. Don’t be afraid. Let Him who “rules the world with truth and grace,” reign joyfully in your heart.