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Fear into Joy

by Allison Pate, Faith  Formation & Service Director

And [Gabriel] came to [Mary] and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” … Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Luke 1:28-30, 38

During the busy days of the holiday season, there are a lot of mixed feelings. While we might be singing along to Joy to the World, we might be feeling overwhelmed, rudderless, or in despair. When we wish “Merry Christmas” to friends and family, we might feel less than merry, with concerns, fears, and sadness on our hearts and minds. It seems incongruous with this time of year until you remember that those figures in our nativity scenes all experienced fear and worry too.

But just when Joseph had resolved to [dismiss Mary quietly], an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. … When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, […] and he named the boy Jesus. Matthew 1:20, 24-25.

But something about the arrival of the baby Jesus transformed their fear into joy. As a new mom, I was afraid to even cut my sweet baby’s fingernails. Even the slightest prick was overwhelming. Even now, the worries I have about the world and how things will all turn out are daily supplanted by peals of laughter and silly faces.

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. … When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” … [Then] the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. Luke 2: 8-9, 15, 20

Joy, it seems, is a paradox. Our English word paradox comes from the Greek paradoxa meaning “other glory.” In other words, joy is about God’s glory being manifest in a way other than we could imagine. There is a correlation between the depth of suffering and the height of joy. In O Little Town of Bethlehem we sing that “the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” There is something about facing the dark night that allows us to see the dawning of joy.

Hope Giver & Joy Bringer, these days aren’t always easy. You know my heart and mind. Help my hopes and fears to be met in you today and always. Amen.



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