These familiar words from Luke continue the advent vigil into our celebration of Christmas.
Throughout this week we hear the angel of God delivering messages of joy, of unbelievable events, and of ordinary people being surprised and then growing into acceptance of God’s presence among them. It is a very well-known story for all of us...perhaps so familiar that we zone in and out as we hear and/or read it: the announcement to Mary of her pregnancy, of Mary and Elizabeth ministering to one another in their extended visit, of the birth of John and Zachary’s unbelief turned into joy as he announces his son’s name, and then the story of the humble birth of Jesus.
Yet, these words and happenings, God’s caressing words of presence, “Do not be afraid,” can awaken us to the now of God’s call in the midst of our lives today.
As I ponder these words this year, they are a comfort to me following the recent death of my mother. This year’s Christmas season brings an emptiness and a ‘letting go’.... a call to celebrate mom and yet to acknowledge the loss of mom in our midst. As we gathered around mom in her last hours, she was not afraid, but ready to ‘lift up her spirit’ with God. But it was we - her family, my dad and sibs, who were in need of those words of assurance, “ Do not be afraid,”......I am with you. Our faith and belief is that God was with us and with mom...but our hearts had not yet caught up to KNOWING it.
How often do we find ourselves in day-to-day struggles and ‘have to do’s’ - not wishing to continue, perhaps unsure of ourselves or the project or the challenge of the day? It is times like these that we may very well experience raw fear - the unknown lurks and we are unsure of ourselves. Yet, it is in trying to do this ourselves – to find the courage within us to face our fears that we stumble...it is these times that God is present, whispering, “DO NOT BE AFRAID”.
Mary’s questions, “How can this be?” are very real. She found herself in the midst of an incredibly strange experience of being told something very frightening and awe-filled - that she was to be with child...who was to be God’s son!
Mary had tremendous faith in herself AND in her God to believe the angel’s message.... with all the questions of the future lurking.... that she was only betrothed (and not married) to Joseph...what would happen? What did it mean that her child was to be the Son of the Most High?
Mary was willing to be open to God with her questions, her fears, and her consternation. AND, Mary was willing to trust the angel’s assurance of God’s presence, in the midst of the questions, fears and unknown future.... and to move forward - “Let it be done according to your word.”
As I/we face our futures of unknown beginnings, or daily humdrum moments or a closing of life’s chapter, this is my prayer this season: May I/we allow God in ... open with our fears, longings, emptiness and emotional roller coasters.... to trust the loving embrace of God and be open to what may be revealed in these days, weeks and months ahead ...according to God’s word and promise.
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