Do Not Be Afraid
This coming Sunday is the First Sunday of Advent and the beginning of the new year on the Church calendar. This is the season of trying to slow down. It's the season of learning to slow down. It's the season of preparation as we both eagerly and anxiously await the coming of Christ. It is the season of the already and the not yet, as we celebrate what has come and what is yet to come.
As we prepare for the birth of Christ I am always reminded of Mary and her encounter with Gabriel. All angels are messengers of God, but Gabriel is the one to whom really important messages are entrusted. In the Hebrew scriptures, Gabriel appears to Daniel to explain his visions. Gabriel also appears in the Book of Enoch and other Jewish writings. Gabriel appears to Zechariah and Mary when he announces the births of John and Jesus in the Gospel of Luke. And Islam holds that Gabriel was sent to the prophet Muhammad. Most of the time when an angel visits someone they say, “Do not be afraid,” or words to that effect.
What if we used “Do not be afraid” as an Advent theme?
Do not be afraid . . . to scale back Christmas celebrations for the sake of your personal well-being.
Do not be afraid . . . to not have the “perfect” Christmas, knowing that we aren't picture perfect.
Do not be afraid . . . to celebrate in ways that are meaningful (which may mean “different”).
Do not be afraid . . . to try something new or create a new tradition.
Do not be afraid . . . to have fun.
Do not be afraid . . . to grieve if you need to.
Do not be afraid . . . to be yourself.
Do not be afraid . . . to see the face of God in another person.
Do not be afraid . . . to say no sometimes.
Do not be afraid . . . to proclaim the Good News.
Do not be afraid . . . to listen for the voice of God calling you.
Do not be afraid . . . to reply to God as Mary did, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord.”
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I hope you all have an enjoyable day and weekend. Immediately after that we roll into Advent and begin in earnest the preparations for Christmas. As I mentioned last week, it can be a hectic time. In this time when the hustle and bustle can get to be too much, may you find times of peace and tranquility.
And maybe most importantly, may you be not afraid, knowing that God is with you . . . always.