Sunday, December 17, 2017

Fear Not

Today we light the third candle—the candle of Proclamation. Traditionally it is the candle of Joy, and it distinguish from the others with a rosey hue.

Last week was the candle Annunciation. What makes annunciation different from proclamation? Well, according to Merriam-Webster, to proclaim is to declare publicly and openly.  Once again, it was an angel (rather, a choir of heavenly host) who proclaimed Christ’s birth. Their public audience? The lowly shepherds abiding in the Bethlehem fields. Not who you’d expect to be the first ones receiving the good news. But God’s kingdom is continually flipping the expected on its head.

Not only were these shepherds social outcasts and most-likely very poorly groomed, but they weren’t even the ones waiting hopefully for the Messiah. Generations upon generations of prophets and scribes held that occupation. And yet, this is whom the Lord chose. And I am so glad He did, for His choice teaches us a powerful message about both fear and joy.

Growing up, my family and I were hard-core fans of the Charlie Brown Christmas. Long before YouTube, we would wait for it to air on TV, and even attempt to record it on much-used VHS tapes. This year, after watching the special online, I read an article by Jason Soroski about the cartoon special which about knocked my socks off. As most of us know, Charlie Brown shouts out to his friends, “Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” Linus gingerly walks to the middle of the stage and says, “Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about.” Cue the lights, and he begins to recite the famous passage from Luke 2:8-14:

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, 'Fear not: for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.' And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.'

The article pointed out that right after Linus says, “Fear not”—right in the middle of the passage—he drops his ever-present security blanket!

How had we not noticed that before? It’s a game changer. For it speaks volumes to a greater purpose in the angels’ Proclamation. The angels weren’t just commanding the shepherds to not fear their bright, other-worldly appearance. They were the very messengers of God, saying to a broken, weary, and trodden-upon world, “FEAR NOT!” Not only, “don’t have fear,” but instead, take this JOY I am sending you this day, and make it your own.

When God opened the sky and sent down His angels to proclaim Christ’s advent to earth, He was doing more than giving a glorious birth announcement, He was giving us the One with the power to perfectly cast out all fear.

Joy is the fruit of the spirit I often have the most trouble attaining. And maybe there’s a reason for that. It is not mine to attain; it is the Spirit’s to be given. When my fears get in the way, I am unintentionally stifling God’s gift.

Soroski ends his article with these words:

- The birth of Jesus separates us from our fears.
- The birth of Jesus frees us from the habits we are unable (or unwilling) to break ourselves.
- The birth of Jesus allows us to simply drop the false security we have been grasping so tightly, and learn to trust and cling to him instead.

So this is the challenge to myself, and to you:

Let go of your blanket.

And see what the Lord has done for you. 


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