I’ve always been struck by the angel’s words to Mary. “Do not be afraid.” They are words that echo the angel’s words to Zechariah and foreshadow the angel’s words to the shepherds in the fields. They are words that tie together the whole of the Christmas story.
But really. How could Mary not be afraid? Let’s be fair, throughout history people have been afraid in far less tenuous circumstances.
So how could Mary not be afraid when confronted with a celestial being out of nowhere? How could Mary not be afraid after hearing the news about her pregnancy? How could Mary not be afraid when she heard that her son would be the Savior of the world?
Mary indeed had plenty to fear.
And yet, the angel says, “Do not be afraid.” In fact, “Do not be afraid” is the usually the first message of angels, and it is most repeated phrase in all of scripture.
But it’s interesting that the angel doesn’t say that there is nothing to fear. The angel doesn’t say to Mary, “Suck it up. Pull up your bootstraps. And get over it.” Because I think the angel knows that Mary has plenty of reason to be afraid, but the angel also knows that God is about to enter that fear as Immanuel, God with us.
And here’s the thing, there are still things to fear. Our fears might be different than Mary’s, and they might range from something seemingly trivial like snakes, to something far more complicated like watching someone we love suffer.
There are things to fear, but the promise remains. God shows up in our fear and our uncertainty and our confusion as Immanuel, God with us.
That is the hope of Christmas. That is the promise. From generation-to-generation God meets us in our fear.
Grace and peace