Fear Not

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Luke 2: 10 – “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy . . .”

It was dark. The sheep were doing whatever it is that sheep do once night falls. The shepherds were keeping a watchful for eye for any signs of danger, as shepherds had done in this region for centuries. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared them. The glory of the Lord illuminated the area around them. Think about it. In the dark shadows of the night, the invisible suddenly becomes visible. The veil that separates heaven and earth is pulled back and they see something few mortals have ever seen. There was nothing in their collective experience that would have prepared them to make sense out what was happening. In the face of this unexpected and supernatural occurrence they were understandably overcome with fear.

How comforting it must have been that the angel’s first words were, “Fear not!”. It was exactly what they needed to hear to stop them in their tracks, calm their hearts and keep them from running. There must be something viscerally terrifying about an encounter like this, because these were also the first words uttered to Zechariah when the angel appeared to him. He spoke these words because he knew something neither the shepherds nor Zechariah knew. Somewhere on the eastern frontier a boy was born who would be their Savior!

Life can be terrifying. It’s full of uncertainty. Bad things happen to people we love and care about. We are mugged by circumstances that are beyond our control. People we count on disappoint us, even betray us. It’s easy to be overcome by fears from within and by fears from without. After all, the world is a very dangerous place and there is no lack of evidence to belie our concerns. It’s in these moments that I need to hear the words of the Angel of the Lord echoing in my heart and mind saying, “Fear not! … For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

The birth of a boy in a manger in the city of Bethlehem announced to the shepherds the good news concerning the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God. The arrival of the One who brings true healing, renewal and peace has come to pass. Expectation has given way to fulfillment. As we celebrate Advent, all the scenes and signs of the season are pointers to this new reality. The true King of the world has come! He is the one will rescue us from the curse of sin and death. And if we are His, we have nothing to fear. May we hear the voice of the Spirit shouting those words, “Fear not!” in the face of all our fears.

Jim Mckee

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O Come

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O come, O come, Emmanuel,

and ransom captive Israel

that mourns in lonely exile here

until the Son of God appear. 

Can you feel the ache, the longing, the sadness, the darkness? 400 years of silence between the books of Malachi and Matthew, Israel mourning in lonely exile…wondering when it’ll ever change, wondering when God will speak once more.

O come and be with us; we can only mourn until You come.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free

Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;

from depths of hell Thy people save,

and give them victory over the grave.

 It’s a little more intense now. Free us from Satan’s tyranny, from oppression and cruelty, from false thoughts and beliefs that rule over us, from the very depths of hell.

O come and free us from evil and death, save us.

O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer

our spirits by Thine advent here;

disperse the gloomy clouds of night

and death’s dark shadows put to flight.

 Dayspring means the beginning of; dawn; the beginning of a new era or order of things. Dispersing clouds, shadows swallowed by light. Oh heart, be encouraged by what’s coming – by Who’s coming – and bringing a new order of things.

O come, Desire of nations, bind

In one the hearts of all mankind;

Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,

And be Thyself our King of Peace

Note the pairing of the words, “sad divisions.” So many things divide us – age, race, money, politics, status… For He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility.

O come, bind us all together and bind us to You. Be our Peace.

Rejoice! Rejoice!

Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

Lauren McWilliams

Waiting

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I’ve been staring at that tree since Thanksgiving.

It was decorated the day before, in between the careful simmering of the cranberry sauce and cutting butter into flour for apple pie crust. Seven and half feet tall, white lights, silver and gold glittering ball ornaments with red and silver beaded strands running through its branches. A beautiful angel with open arms and a flowing dress barely fits between the top of that tree and the ceiling. A hand-stitched nativity set is carefully arranged at the bottom.

I’ve sat in front of it every night since it went up. I did my Black Friday shopping on my computer in the chair next to it. I shared tea with friend by it. I watched the Gilmore Girls revival (and cried big tears) in front of it.

I’ve been staring at it for over a week and nothing’s different. I keep thinking that something will change, that I’ll feel the Christmas joy and light and cheer come all at once like it usually does if I just wait here long enough.

I think this is how I’ve been treating Jesus recently. Like I’m staring at the nativity waiting for something to happen, ready to scream “DO SOMETHING!” to the tiny baby Jesus in the manger. In the end I’m left wanting to feel different, better, more connected, more loved, hopeful. And nothing’s happening.

That happens sometimes, doesn’t it? We stare at our faith, waiting for something momentous to come and it feels like it never does. I imagine that’s how the Israelites felt after years of wandering, waiting for something to happen. Or how Sarah and Elizabeth felt after years of being barren, waiting for a child. Or how Joseph felt, wrongly imprisoned and waiting for freedom.

And then Jesus came. He came because no amount of Christmas decorations can cure what ails us. He came because peace can’t come from a Christmas tree. He came because life isn’t found in the idolatry of the perfect Christmas season.

But in his coming, he did do something. In his coming he does make all the difference in the world, bringing the connection and love and hope we yearn for. In his coming, we finally know what joy we’ve been waiting for.

So I’m still staring at this tree, waiting. If the past is any gauge, something will happen. Jesus will move in my heart like he always does, just on his time, not mine. And when he does, oh what joy is mine.

Jessica Bates

Coming

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For many years I lived near Edwards Air Force Base in California. This afforded us some unexpected memorable moments. One of those moments was the landing of the space shuttle. Edwards AFB was the alternative landing spot for the shuttle during its era of space exploration. With an average of 360 days of cloudless skies and its enormous dry lake bed, Edwards AFB made a perfect destination for the shuttle’s return whenever weather conditions were not quite right at the Kennedy Space Center. This was always an exciting time for us as we were in the flight path of the shuttle’s re-entry. When this was to take place we would tune in to listen to the shuttle report from Kennedy Space Center and head outside to see if we could catch a glimpse of the space orbiter as it returned.

Seeing the shuttle was not always easy but we were sure to know when it had arrived by the twin sonic booms it produced as it re-entered the earth’s atmosphere. There was always the anticipation of the booms. These booms were exciting to hear not only because they rocked the windows of our home, but because they represented the arrival of the astronauts. They had returned!

However, waiting for the booms would always be accompanied with a sense of apprehension and maybe even a little dread. Would they return safely? Would everything work as it should? I found myself breathing a sigh of relief when the booms sounded as we searched the sky for signs of the shuttle, fixing our eyes on any place we might catch a glimpse of it. We didn’t always see it but we knew it was there, the twin booms serving as the announcement for all to hear. Usually a week or so later we would get to see a close-up look at the shuttle when it would fly piggy-back on a 747 jet as it was carried back to Florida to the space center.

So what does all of this have to do with Advent? Advent comes from the Latin word adventum meaning “coming”. It is easy to think of Advent as a way of looking back to a time when a nation was waiting for the coming of their Messiah. Jesus’ arrival was the fulfillment of a long period of waiting. However Advent is not just for looking back. Once again we are waiting, waiting for the coming of Jesus to earth. His return is as certain as his first arrival but the waiting can be filled with trepidation as well. Just like the tension felt as we waited for the twin booms to be heard, we as believers can at times be apprehensive as we live here in the waiting period. Life can be uncertain and filled with challenges. However we must remember that Jesus is coming again. John 14:3 is a promise directly from Jesus for us.

And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

During this time when we celebrate his first coming, let us also keep in our hearts that he is going to return. He will come again. Celebrate Advent with a heart full of confidence that Jesus’ first coming points to his second coming as well. If God would be willing to send his only son into the world in order to die for us, He will indeed send his son back to this world to bring us home to him. He is coming.

Eliza Huie, Assistant Director of Life Counseling Center