This time of year, Advent transitioning into Christmastide, is a time in which we frequently hear the words, “Do not be afraid.”
Depending on what Gospel you are reading, an angel shows up to Zechariah, Mary, and Joseph, and begins with the same words, “Do not be afraid.”
Do not be afraid. Some conclude that this is the greeting, many times, because angels appear frightful. Others, because they would likely be surprised when someone is standing in their bedroom or wherever they may be.
I wonder, however, if there is something more broadly applicable about this opening line.
Do not be afraid. Perhaps this comes because whatever the angel is going to say is going to be out of the ordinary: a virgin is going to become pregnant, a woman beyond child-bearing years is going to bear a child, a dead person has come back to life.
Perhaps this comes as a continual reminder of what God desires for us: to have confidence. After all, we have much to fear.
Every day when I wake up and turn on the news I hear of at least a couple shootings that have happened overnight in my city, a streetside memorial reminds me that even walking two blocks can be fatal. The unemployment rate reminds all of us that our jobs are not stable, and that any of us are just a few paychecks away from homelessness. We have been reminded that places of worship and schools are not safe, as people with firearms can wreak havoc on adults and children. These are not new developments, however, as the ancient world was no safer of a place.
It is in the context of much to fear that angels show up and tell those they visit, “do not be afraid.” It is in this context that we are reminded, as well, do not be afraid.
As I have grown, my fear and worry has increased exponentially. As a child I had relative certainty that I would have a roof over my head, that I would have clothing and food. I had relative certainty that I was safe at school and that my base needs would be met. As those needs are shifted to one’s own responsibility, fear increases. I have to be concerned with putting food on my table, I have to be concerned with paying the rent to ensure that we have a home, I have to be concerned with the provision of clothing, I have to be concerned with my safety at church, or while walking down the street.
Or do I?
While we are never called to be lazy (work was created by God) or dumb (everyone knows that walking through dark alleys at 2:00am is a terrible idea), perhaps the command to not be afraid is indicative of how God desires for us to live.
When I am continually afraid, I shut myself off. When I am afraid of losing those things that I need to survive, I stop giving financial and material things to the work of ministry, and to provide for those who lack. When I am afraid of rejection, I don’t speak out or stand up. When I am afraid of losing my job, employment seems to transform into a prison. When we live in fear, we listen more to our survival instinct and less to God.
Not being afraid is an incredible act of trust. The ability to trust, ultimately to trust in the fact that God is in control and takes care of us, is something which is immensely difficult to do when we face all of these fears.
A question that I need to ask myself, is this: do I actually trust? Do I trust that God has some sort of a plan, that God is in control of things, that God cares for us and provides for us? Do I trust that God is truly with us? Do I trust that God is bigger than the bogey man, and that God will not lead me astray?
“To trust is to admit that you are not God, that you cannot control the outcome of situations, that you will show up, listen hard to your calling, do the work, and open your hands” (Keri Wyatt Kent, Deeply Loved, Ch. 28, para. 18).
“Do not be afraid” is one of the concepts I have been reflecting on this Advent. I am a person of great anxiety and of great fear, and this fear speaks loudly into my life. What does it mean to not be afraid?
What does it mean for you, dear reader, to not be afraid?
This post is in the Deeply Loved Advent Blog Hop Series hosted by Angie Mabry-Nauta
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