By: Eric Doolittle, College Chaplain
Scripture: Luke 2:1-14
Meeting an angel, despite how cute it looks when re-enacted by 8 year-olds in white bed sheets and tinsel wings, must be terrifying. Throughout the Advent and Christmas scriptures of Luke and Matthew, when an angel appears to Joseph, Zecharias, Elizabeth, Mary, or the shepherds, the first thing they say is “Fear not! Don’t be afraid. It’s going to be OK. I have something to tell you.” Angels are, after all, literally messengers. It’s hard to deliver a message when the recipient is scared senseless. So the first words are always “Don’t be afraid.”
Of all the messages of good news that we receive during Advent and Christmas, this simple reminder from the angels is both essential and easily overlooked. It’s overlooked because we are good at providing distractions. Between holiday parties, decorations, gifts, vacations, meals, and music, we hardly have time to be worried. Right? But according to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, 64% of people are affected by the ‘holiday blues’, including fatigue, tension, anxiety, sadness, loneliness and loss. The societal solution is to crank up the tinsel meter and music, masking our concerns and fears. But to be honest, there is plenty to worry about in our world, from the personal to the national to the global. Far more than we can disguise or party away. Instead of worldly distraction, God instead acts on a solution for our fears and sends messengers to fill us in on the plan.
The angels, these messengers from God, bring the essential good news of an advent, the arrival of a notable person. The most notable person, in fact: The Light. The Word. The Messiah. The Prince of Peace. The King of Kings. Emmanuel. God with Us. The incarnation of the Christ is more than the birth of a baby under unusual circumstances. It’s the answering of a promise made by the Almighty Father to his children.
Do not be afraid. I am with you.
As we move from the season of Advent to the celebration of Christmastide, let’s take a moment to acknowledge those shadows of doubt and lingering fears lurking in the cold and dark corners of our hearts. May we hear once again the words of Godly messengers, greeting frightened women and men. Hear the cry of the babe in Bethlehem, who is also a teacher, healer, and savior of all creation. Hear the answered promise of God to you. Hear the good news of the heavenly hosts crying out across the sky.
“Fear not!” said he, for mighty dread had seized there troubled minds. “Glad tidings of great joy I bring to all of humankind, to all of humankind.” (While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks, stanza 2, Nahum Tate, 1700)