Fear Finds Courage at Christmas
The angels said to them, “Do not be afraid” but they had every reason to be afraid. Mary was preparing for her future with her husband and suddenly that future had changed, her husband-to-be could leave her, her community could stone her for her suspected infidelity, and at the very least she would be shunned from the community.
Joseph became the foolish husband. He chose to believe an angel and his wife over logic.
Poor outsiders, working in the fields as shepherds left the field to see a baby. Would they have jobs when they returned? Would they be able to get another job? Was it worth it to see the Messiah?
And those wise ones who trusted a star, got turned around many times, to bring gifts to a King who was not from their country.
I keep thinking about these words, “Do not be afraid” because I can’t help reflecting on how “not afraid” their actions were. Instead of fear, we see courage. Courage to be vulnerable. Courage to take a risk. Courage to believe. Courage to trust.
In these last few weeks I keep hearing people talk about fear. Fear is a complex emotion found in every aspect of our lives. Fear is expressed in anxiety, greed, jealousy and addiction. Fear holds us back from opportunities and pushes us forward into places that seem safe but take us nowhere. We all have it: fear of a medical procedure, fear of the future, fear of loneliness, fear for our kids, fear of parenthood, fear of retirement, fear of the political atmosphere. Fear seeps into the deepest crevices of our being and often stays too long.
But the opposite of fear is what we find at Christmas. We find people who courageously ignore fear and step into the unknown. I can’t even imagine the conversations that Mary and Joseph had that day or what the shepherds discussed huddled together after a chorus of angels sang before them.
What I can tell you is that I have seen people with this same courage.
We entered an apartment complex with Christmas presents in our hands, to find children running around outside, some with bare feet, others only in a t-shirt and shorts. We were there to deliver gifts to a refuge family. As we enter their humble home all they have is a mattress and a folding chair to fill the space. This family traveled from Rwanda escaping with fear for their lives. They had such great courage to meet us at the door and greet us with the only English words they knew—thank you.
Courage of a grandfather whose daughter with three children got cancer. Knowing he couldn’t afford to keep them he still took them in. His retirement funds quickly depleted and they were at a homeless shelter—thanking God that they had a roof over their heads for Christmas.
A woman sits in the waiting room surrounded by anxiously waiting people. She courageously turns to me and says “Can we pray that God will get me through?”
So often I think of the Christmas story as one filled with people who are willing to go where God calls. But really, this story is about people who have courage to trust God no matter how difficult, stressful and fearful a situation might be. Be courageous this Christmas.