Saturday, December 8, 2012

Do Not Be Afraid!

Last weekend, Ren and I visited Willow Creek church in South Barrington, IL with Cait and Jack. Pastor Bill Hybel's was speaking and the title of the sermon was 'NOT A NORMAL CHRISTMAS".  It turns out that the Hybel family has received some very difficult news of illness in their extended family.  It will not be a normal Christmas as they face some really hard things with those they love. (if you would like to hear his message go to )

But I don't think I've spoken to a single person since then that will have a 'NORMAL CHRISTMAS' this year!  I hear over and over people talking about 'things to come' and uncertainties of life.   Everyone I know is facing a challenge, a change or a loss in some way this year!  It doesn't necessarily mean that it is bad- but Christmas won't be NORMAL because of it.

What is normal anyway?  How NORMAL was the first Christmas?  You know, if you think about all the issues that the people at the original scene faced, maybe challenge, change and loss IS NORMAL.   We just spend so much time and money trying to make it something that it is not!

Pastor Hybel's challenge to us was, Do not be afraid.   How often do we hear those words in scripture?  Lot's!  Hybel's says that the Bible says this phrase, or some facsimile of it 365 times-that's one for everything day of the year!   (I'll have to study that!)

But the interesting thing for me to consider is how many people at that first Christmas heard those words.  (I have written about what I've learned from these people before - check out my blogs for December 2011) But think about what they were feeling here.
  • Zechariah- the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard.  Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John."  (Luke 1:13)

    Here he was, working so hard to do everything right- the Bible says Zechariah was righteous in God's eyes and blameless.  But the one desire of his heart had not be granted him. And suddenly this being shows up- and Zech is afraid- very afraid!  He's being granted what he longs for and he's still afraid!  Getting what you ask for is sometimes frightening!
  • Mary- the angel said to her "Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God."  (Luke 1:30)

    Think of the change this would mean for her. She's only a young girl- and suddenly life is not how she imagined it to be.  And now the angel is saying that this "drama" is because she has found favor?  God, if messing up my world and what people think of me is favor, I'd hate to feel your wrath!
  • Joseph- an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream! "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. (Matt 1:20)

    Talk about dreams dashed and expectations devastated, even his reputation destroyed.  Let alone his'trust' in this love of his life, but most of all his GOD. To finally have a son- and it not be your child. The overwhelming loss
  • the Shepherds- the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid.  I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people."

    These people- second class, maybe even third class in some circles, are being told this news that ALL people will want to hear?  Why us?  Why me?  Why this way?  They had to wonder if this was a joke on them!
All these people didn't even know it was Christmas- and they faced challenges, changes and loss, just like any other day!  Why do we think that our Christmas should be filled with sparkle and magic and fun!  It seems that God sent Jesus because he knew our Christmas's would be NORMAL.  Full of fear, and hurt & loss and uncertainty! 

And to all of that- he speaks to us!

Do not be afraid!
For I am with you!

How is God showing up in your NORMAL CHRISTMAS?  I'd love to hear! I know other readers of this post would as well!  Share one way in the comments below!
And Thanks!

1 comment:

  1. What is a normal Christmas anyway? We don't have any "hard and fast" traditions. With no kids (and obviously no grandkids) we just do whatever works in any given year. We have lived away from family so much that we have learned to do our own thing.
    In talking with friends the past days I realize how many are having very "not normal" Christmases. One had his 99 year old mother just die and they are on their way (in the snow) to Wisconsin for a funeral celebration. The other just saw her husband moved into the Alzheimer unit of the nursing home. Another heard that her mother has about 6 weeks to live plus her sister is "mentally challenged" and has tons of health issues and they don't know what to do with her. Another of our very good friends was moved into the Alzheimer unit and will not even enjoy Christmas as she has always known it. So when we think of all these friends with their issues our "mundane" Christmas plans seem quite wonderful! Of course, it is only Dec 9 and anything could happen in the next days and weeks!
    So Merry Christmas and enjoy whatever happens.
    Love ya,