Whenever an angel of the Lord appears in our Advent story, they speak these words, “Do not be afraid!” As I mentioned last Sunday, there is a pattern found in the annunciations throughout Scripture. The angel appears, the response of the person is fear, the angel says, “Do not be afraid!”, delivers the divine message, the person has an objection or question, and then more details are given as to how the story will unfold. This sequence would have signaled to early readers that the person whom the angel visited would have an important role in the redemptive work of God.
On Wednesday night, Gray, Scarlett, Georgia, and Tessa helped us practice saying the angel’s words, “Do not be afraid!” Then, Carrie Duborg guided us in painting angel ornaments for our Christmas trees. I was thinking how vital this message is for our daily lives. Do not be afraid to be courageous. Do not be afraid to work with integrity. Do not be afraid to hand your child over to daycare. Do not be afraid when your life feels boring and pointless. We need the constant reminder because living in fear often hinders us from truly living.
Moreover, we are approaching the joyous celebration of Christmas when God comes to us as a human. I don’t want to get ahead of the message, but we should understand the significance of this act! God coming to us as a human means God can relate to everything we experience. God knows what it feels like to be overwhelmed with sorrow and overcome with joy. We don’t have to be afraid because we have a God who promises to be with us through it all. Jesus’ birth is the proof!
On Tuesday of this week, the Mosaics (older adult ministry for 55+) took a trip to Scarritt Bennett Center. We feasted on a wonderful meal and listened to Christmas music performed by a man named… wait for it…Emmanuel. He joked about having the daily reminder that God is with him. But in that beautiful, simple chapel, he was our reminder of Emmanuel. Through his music, we were able to sit in stanzas of hope and promise; we were able to bask in the presence of a God who is for us and with us.
We can always find ways to speak “Emmanuel” into our daily lives. When what you’re facing seems insurmountable, try whispering Emmanuel to yourself; try birthing Emmanuel into your real life, hard situations. In fact, why not try that now?
Hold out your hands, palms up, and speak these words into your day. God, I need the reminder that you are with me. I need you to help me not be afraid of whatever comes my way. Help me speak your name when what I am facing feels too overwhelming. Emmanuel. Emmanuel. Emmanuel.
Rev. Sam McGlothlin