Fear Not

By the Reverend Canon Dr. William J. Danaher, Jr., Rector

Every Christmas Day, I find myself reflecting on the actors in the drama we read from Luke’s Gospel (2:1-20). The Emperor Augustus called for a census so he could assert his power. Joseph went searching for a place where the Holy Family could rest. Mary underwent labor and walked a tightrope between life and death so that Jesus could be born to this world. The shepherds obeyed the summons of the heavenly host so they could see the Christ-child. The Magi followed the star so that they might worship the world’s Savior.

These are all powerful roles that each of us is invited to explore in our own lives. However, this year I have been thinking about one in particular. The angel who told the shepherds:
“Do not be afraid; for see– I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”

“Do not be afraid.” Or, as a more traditional translation puts it: “Fear not!”

So many sinful things we do are motivated by fear. When we fear people, we dehumanize them — we make them into monsters rather than realizing that they are, like us, fallible, fragile, and complex human beings. When we fear outcomes, we dread them and try to push them out of our minds through denial. When we fear the future, we live in the past and let nostalgia be our drug of choice.
Fear makes us less than who God created us to be. Fear makes our world a forbidding and hostile place. Fear convinces is that we live amongst scarcity rather than abundance. Fear erodes the trust we need to negotiate our daily lives at every level.

For all these reasons, the angel wisely says to the shepherds, Fear not! As powerful as these words are, however, they provide the same comfort as when you say to someone who is anxious, “Relax!” Which, is to say, none.

When I am anxious, nothing makes me more anxious than someone telling me, “Relax!” In feeling this way, I suspect I am not alone.

The Angel’s words, however, do not stand alone. They are accompanied by the invitation to see in the figure of Jesus the perfect love of God. Love alone is the antidote to fear. In today’s Gospel, the Christmas message is delivered by Jesus, who is the sign that God’s love has rendered our fears irrelevant.

Which role in today’s Gospel draws you in? This year, I invite you to be angels. Angels are not merely heavenly beings but — to draw from the original word in Greek (angelos) — “messengers.” In this sense, we all can be messengers delivering the good news, “Fear not!” More importantly, we can all be messengers of God’s love when we love, like God, not only with our words, but through our hands and hearts. May you know God’s love in Christ Jesus. May God’s love cast out all that you fear. May God’s love flow through everything you do this Christmas Day and always.