Sunday 21st December 2014
The words “Do not be afraid” are well used in the wider Christmas story. As the angel foretells the birth of John the Baptist to his father Zechariah, those words “Do not be afraid” are proclaimed. Likewise Joseph encouraged to take Mary as his wife, “Do not be afraid” he is told. At the visitation to the shepherds after Christ’s birth, they are hailed with a cry of “Do not be afraid”. Then the most remarkable is the assurance to Mary as she is told she was to bear the baby called Jesus.
With the angel’s message comes a promise from God: a promise that Mary has found favour, her son will be called “the Son of the Most High” Mary is told her baby will be given the throne of King David and will reign over an endless kingdom for ever.
But God is coming into the world in a way that will make him accessible to all people, not as a mighty and powerful warrior king, not at the centre of earthly power, but weak, fragile and vulnerable as the newborn child of a poor couple.
We are so bombarded with the story at this time of year that we may forget to notice the immense courage and faith of Mary, a miracle in itself. Mary, in her darkest hour, hears God’s call and through her fear which must have been immense, said, “Yes!”
Even at this festive time, life can seem very dark and frightening, people have all kinds of concerns, from the economy and our health, loneliness and relationship problems, to war or terrorism. So now, more than ever, the message of the angel is enormously relevant.
Do not be afraid; believe, even in the face of supposedly insurmountable odds; have faith that we are not alone, for God himself will be born among us, not above us, mighty and powerful, but down on earth beside us. In all the clamour, listen for God’s call, “Do not be afraid” and be ready to see through your fear, responding with your own ‘Yes!’
Rev’d Canon Simon Moor, Vicar of Huddersfield Parish Church