An angel greeted Zechariah: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard.”
Just when Joseph had resolved to quietly dismiss Mary who was with child an angel of the Lord appeared and said: “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit”.
An angel of the Lord appeared to shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night and said to them: “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy for all the people.”
The story of Christmas, the birth of the child Jesus in Bethlehem, speaks to us loudly and clearly: “Do not be afraid. You have found favor with God.”
We live in a world with events that stir fear on a daily basis. A group of young people gather for a night of singing and dancing and are gunned down.
A group of disciples of Jesus gather to reflect on the Good News. They welcome a young stranger into their group. The young stranger responds to their kindness with bullets.
A group of young adults gather upstairs in an abandoned warehouse and find themselves consumed by flames.
Like the persons mentioned above every day we make choices, hundreds, thousands of choices not knowing the consequences of those choices. Events like those described above can sometimes lead to panic and fear. We all know how paralyzing fear is. There is no insurance that can protect us from making choices that result in consequences like those described above.
During the season of Christmas the temptation is to erase moments like those mentioned above. Daily events remind us that our global village is frequently visited by moments that cause fear to rise up, moments like terrorism, violence, the legion of demons that derails our lives like arrogance, self-centeredness, jealousy, the many faces of addiction – alcohol, food, sex, power.
Christmas is not a time to erase, delete, to put aside the brokenness of our lives.
Christmas challenges us to listen to the message of God’s messenger, “Do not be afraid”. Christmas provides us with the insurance we seek to conquer the fears life serves on our platter. That insurance is called love, the incarnate love of God. The message of Christmas is “Do not be afraid. God loves us. God loves us so much that he has become one with us, has taken on our human condition.”
God’s love will not erase from our lives the consequences of unhealthy, selfish choices whether our own choices or the choices of others. Mary’s “Yes” to God’s will did not protect her from the pain and suffering of being Jesus’ mother, seeing him mocked and ridiculed, nailed to a tree. Every time I look upon the Pieta and gaze upon the expression on Mary’s face, the silent strength of a mother’s love stirs within me.
Christmas is a season for giving gifts. The number one Christmas gift is God’s gift of love, an incarnate love that reminds us that we have found favor with God.
Christmas challenges us to reduce our contribution to the fear in our global village that leads to war, violence, greed, corruption and abuse.
The profound message of Christmas, a message that for many people is too good to be true, is: “Do not be afraid”. The incarnate love of God for us made visible in the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem proclaims loud and clear: “Do not be afraid. I love you. I will always love you. I will never stop loving you.” We have found favor with God.
Christmas proclaims to those who have ears to hear that God has not given up on us. Let us not give up on God. Let us not give up on ourselves. Let us not give up on each other. Let us resolve on this Christmas of 2016 to make our global village, to make our relationships with God and with each other free of fear.
Let us not be afraid. We have found favor with God.
Emile Dumas MM