Dec. 17: Be not afraid
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Like a lot of angels in the Bible, after calling Joseph by name, the angel in today’s passage starts with “don’t be afraid.” Once years ago when my kids and I were reading their Children’s Bible before bed, one of them asked “why would I be afraid of an angel – aren’t they supposed to be nice?” He had me there … and I was uncharacteristically at a loss for words. We talked about the big voices they have, the situations in which they appear and the idea that if you were not expecting it, it might be pretty scary to see even a sliver of God’s power up close and unfiltered – especially if God was not too happy with you. Then one of them asked, “So Jesus and the angels tell us that God doesn’t want us to be afraid – is that all?” I told them, “Well, that’s not all, but ‘be not afraid’ is a good place to start.”
I was feeling pretty good about myself there – after all, I was not totally at a loss. But as I thought about it more and more, I realized that I had made a bit of a mistake. I hadn’t made it clear to them that “be not afraid” is a divine, not a human, beginning. That it’s not the first thing WE do – it’s really more the first thing we need to work on, the “top priority” and the thing we need God’s help most in order to do. The angel that appeared to Joseph brought the best news of all – God is with us.
So my prayer for you this Advent season is that you will feel the celebration of Jesus’ birth as the certainty of God’s presence in your life. God is with us; we are not alone. Thanks be to God.
SCRIPTURE: Matthew 1:18-25 (NRSV)