I wonder what it must have been like for Mary and Joseph and the shepherds in the field to have a very real, very frightening encounter with the Divine.
Often, the angelic visitations of this season are depicted bathed in light in a wistful setting.
As the Advent season begins and I think more about having a Divine being appear out of nowhere, it seems more harrowing than those calm ideals.
There must have been something frightening about the experience if the first words from these angelic messengers were, “Fear not!”
If the appearance of an angelic visitor didn’t scare Mary and Joseph and the shepherds, then the message that followed, the message that would change their whole lives and future, certainly would have.
More than 365 references in the Bible focus on the topics of fear, worry and anxiety. These all have one thing in common: an admonition not to fear, worry or be anxious.
As someone who often finds herself in the throes of a spiral of “what ifs,” this is a sobering realization.
The worry and anxiety I find creeping into my heart and mind, especially in busy seasons of life like Advent, are something God, and indeed God’s son, admonishes against.
Fear-filled living impedes kingdom vision. Kingdom vision is what Jesus was describing to his disciples in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6 when he says, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life. … And can anyone of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?” (Matthew 6:25, 27).
Even as I read those words, I find myself wanting to debate the Divine, “But Lord, haven’t you seen the latest Pew Research? Church budgets are declining. Church membership is declining. Church giving is declining, and there’s this new tax law, which none of us really can predict the implications on giving to nonprofit organizations in 2019.”
And the spiral of worry and anxiety engulfs me in a haze of uncertainty.
Worry impedes faith. Fear-filled living creates a dependence on our own abilities and resources, which allows us to think that there is something about this holy and radical work for which we are responsible.
Kingdom-vision living removes the barrier that fear creates and allows us the freedom to see the weaving of the Divine in our own lives and in the lives around us.
This freedom fills our hearts and minds with gratitude that Creator God invites us to be participants in this high and holy work.
When we see the world through kingdom vision, no doubt exists that the hope, healing and love that transform uncertainty, pain and hate are indeed from the Divine.
We can take no credit for that work, but instead can only marvel at the mysterious appearance of the Divine sharing the good news of the gospel: Emmanuel, God with us, here on earth.
Pastor of Garden of Grace United Church of Christ in Columbia, South Carolina, and editor-in-chief of Harrelson Press Publishing.