Fear not! Words shared by angels on dark nights, in encounters where God's plans are shared, when a heart is being invited to open to a new way of life. Fear not. Why not? Aren't
there times when fear is warranted, natural, even necessary? Doesn't our response of fear, at times, prompt us to flee dangerous circumstances?
But what if Mary, suddenly experiencing the presence of the Angel Gabriel, had said, "No"? What if she had been stunned into silence, or run from the place the Angel had found her? And Joseph, already determined to "dismiss" Mary--to end the betrothal and leave her to raise Jesus alone--what if Joseph had resisted his own encounter with an Angel of God? What if Joseph had reacted with fear, turned and run, or rejected the challenge to raise a child that was not his own?
And the shepherds. Out in the night, tending their sheep, expecting nothing but hoping for an easy night with no threats and no wandering sheep to chase.
A light bursts in the darkness and an Angel of God appears in the swirling mist of sky above them with the words "Fear not." Who would not be afraid? Afraid for his own life, afraid for the safety (not to mention the likely startled response) of the sheep, afraid of what this event might require of him. Fear not.
In this season of advent, we anticipate the coming of Jesus. In part, we look backward, two-thousand years, to the Bethlehem birth of a Baby Boy in a cave, to a mother who had bravely said, "Yes'" and a father who had not dismissed his bride but committed himself to helping raise this Holy Child, no matter the difficulty, the embarrassment or the risk. We look with awe at the willingness of the shepherds to leave their flock so that they could go and gaze upon the Baby's face and at the faith and dedication of wise men who traveled from the East, guided only by a star, to bring gifts of homage and worship. All of these overcame the fear that they must have felt at the discovery of what was expected of them.
In part, though, we look forward. We look forward to another coming of Jesus, one that does not involve a mother or a father, a little town, some shepherds or wise men or, most likely, a band of Angels of God. Instead, this is the coming of Jesus into our hearts. This coming may be corporate, as a family or a congregation or, even, a community opens itself to the entry of a Light that not only bursts into the dark sky but, also, warms the heart of each one who creates an opening to that Light. This coming may be private, individual, personal. But, whether corporate or personal, this coming will not occur, cannot occur, if we are overcome by fear. Fear leads us to answer, "No." Fear closes us off, turns our heads and out hearts away, calls on us to flee from the unknown.
And so, our focus at
Advent, is on peace, and hope, and joy, and love. Our focus is on these real--very real--elements of life. Peace. Hope. Joy. Love. These are the strengths, the heart-opening lubricants, the fear-rejecting gifts of a lifetime from a God who wants so badly to have a loving relationship with us that this same God--more powerful than any force we could ever imagine--became totally vulnerable to life as a human and shared in the very same chaos that we experience in our own lives.
Peace. Hope. Joy. Love. We turn our hearts to a greater understanding of these so that we might be strong, open and courageous, even in the face of fear, to be open to the Light.
This Sunday, we will share words of joy from Mary, the mother of Jesus and my own favorite Bible person (other than Jesus, of course). I urge you to read her words in the latter part of the Gospel of Luke and to know the joy she felt and the joy she shared even in the most uncertain of times. Mary created in herself an opening to the Light. Let us do the same as we wait for the coming of Jesus once again. Fear not!