Saturday, December 15, 2012

Advent 2012



Christmas Greetings


             Happy Holidays!  Season's Greetings!  Merry Christmas! Wishing you joy (or peace or hope or love - take your pick)!  These are the greetings you'll find in your typical Christmas card.  Oddly enough (or perhaps not oddly), you don't tend to find the greeting that regularly appears in scripture throughout the Christmas story - Fear Not!

While Christmas card writers might be hesitant to mention fear, hymn writers throughout the years have known that fear is part of the Christmas story . . . and therefore part of our story.  "While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night," "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen" and "Go Tell It on the Mountain" all remind us that the shepherds were afraid. "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence" and "What Child Is This?" call us to a reverent fear in the presence of God.  "Good Christian Friends, Rejoice" assures us that we no longer need to fear death.  In "Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus" we are bound by our sins and fears, but Jesus has come to set us free.

Recently, I have been captivated by a line from a Christmas song called "Light of the Stable":


Kneel close to the Child so dear

Cast aside your fear and be thankful.


Casting aside our fear doesn't mean we are never afraid. We acknowledge our fear, refusing to let it paralyze us or be what guides our choices in life.  We are sometimes afraid, but we do not have to be fearful.  We can instead be thankful.  When we choose to draw close to the Child, we are set free in ways we can only begin to imagine.

Christmas is frequently referred to as a magical time of year. Well, something beyond magic happened that night in Bethlehem. "O Little Town of Bethlehem" expresses it this way:


The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.


God chose to be with us in a way that had never happened before.  God chose to live with us, as one of us, in the midst of our hopes and fears - to experience what it means to be fully human. Because God chose (and continues to choose) to be with us, we don't have to live in or out of our fear. Fear closes our hearts to God's presence and to the wonders with which God blesses us.  The act of casting aside our fear opens us up to live a life of thankfulness.  In thankfulness we worship God who came to us as a baby and whose perfect love makes it possible for us to live full of hope, not bound by fear.  Thank God for such a wondrous gift.  And Fear Not!


Perfect love casts out fear.  1 John 4:18


- Gaye Rountree


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