Fear Not

Have you ever noticed how often, when the angels showed up in the Bible, the first thing they said was “Fear not”?

I admit I’ve had some direct encounters with the Living God over the years, but I haven’t seen an angel so far. I mean the wings-and-light kind. If I had, I might be too busy trembling in awe to get my wits about me and pay attention to the message. “Fear not” would be a much appreciated first line.

But it makes sense, really. Imagine how shocked old man Zechariah, John the Baptist’s future father, must have been in the Jerusalem Temple holy-of-holies chamber, when that angel popped in to give him the message! Or young Mary, when Gabriel came to tell her she was going to have a baby without the usual first step in the process. Let alone those down-and-out shepherds in the fields that night, when God’s entire heavenly choir took over the skies and burst out in song!

No wonder those angels had to start off with “Fear not.” What a beautiful act of compassion on God’s part.

This past Advent and Christmas, the Sunday worship themes focused on some of those angel meet-ups, and how God is still helping us overcome our fears. As a reminder, we were invited to put together and hang a two-part ornament on the tree in our sanctuary. Inside the ornament is a pointed crystal, reminding us how fear can keep poking us, creating pain. But surrounding the crystal is a set of fabric angel wings. As each of us prayerfully threaded the hanger through the set of angel wings, the church leaders invited us to think about events and people we are thankful for, and how they can help us set aside our fear, overcoming it by God’s grace.

Then on January 6, Epiphany, we could take one of those ornaments home. Mine has found a special place, where I see it regularly and remember: Fear not. Focus on God’s message. Then live it and share it in all the ways you can.

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub