“Do not be afraid”
This statement by an angel shows up several times in the Christmas story. It’s said to Zechariah as the birth of John is announced. The same is said to Mary as she is told of her pregnancy. Then the angels say it to the Shepherds as they first hear about of the birth of Jesus.
“Do not be afraid.”
I wonder if a part of the reason the angels would begin a significant announcement with those words was so that what they had to say could actually be heard.
In those kinds of moments, it would be easy to let your fear override the words that you’re hearing. It would be easy for your mind to be somewhere else, thinking about something else, all the while, the angels are giving you incredibly significant news that you’re going to have an opportunity to respond to. In order to not miss what was going to happen in that moment, the angel would say,
“Do not be afraid.”
Because fear would take them out of that moment. Fear would keep Mary from pondering and treasuring these things. Fear would keep the shepherds away from the manger. They are told to not be afraid, because fear would distract them from what God was doing in that moment and in that place.
Maybe if those same angels came to us today, instead of saying “do not be afraid,” maybe they would instead say something like, “put down your phone” or “don’t add something else to your to-do list” or “stop your incessant worrying for a moment”. I wonder if the statements we would hear would be the things that keep us from being fully present in the moment.
What if during this season, God is wanting to say something to you, but we have become so preoccupied that we aren’t able to hear it. Maybe this week, in preparation for Christmas, you could take some time to put your list away, turn your phone off, and allow yourself to not worry about all that has to be done. Maybe you take a slow, meandering walk with your family. How about you get a fire going and make coffee and hot chocolate and just hang out. Or perhaps you turn off the TV one evening and instead read the story of the first Christmas – it’s only a few chapters – Matthew 1 & 2 and Luke 1 & 2.
I’m reminded of the words of the Psalmist who said, “Today if only you would hear his voice.” Today. Not tomorrow. Not sometime when things slow down. Today.
Could it be that one of the reasons the angels would begin their declarations that we read every year at Christmas with the statement, “Do not be afraid,” was as a way of saying, “Be fully present so that you can hear what God wants to say to you and experience what God is about to do”.
This week, as you prepare for Christmas, don’t forget to slow down and be present so you can hear what God wants to say and experience what God is about to do.