Sunday, December 18, 2016

But Don't Be Afraid...

Advent 4 Sun Yr A (2017)
Ss. Peter & Paul/Danville

Joseph, Son of David, do not be afraid

For weeks now, we’ve been preparing for Jesus to come – and its only days away.  We’ve been getting our hearts and minds on the same page as a family of faith to help us prepare.  Our young people are hearing the message – they’re repeating it at home and using it to decorate for Christmas – reminding us:  If we’re not paying attention, we’ll miss the boat.  So get ready – because Jesus is coming!  But don’t be afraid…  Say it with me, family – If we’re not paying attention, we’ll miss the boat.  So get ready – because Jesus is coming!  But don’t be afraid…  

Just days away from Christmas and there’s still time to pay attention – saying our simple little prayers asking Jesus to help us notice him so we don’t miss the boat like the folks of Noah’s time; so that we don’t miss Him in all the ways He comes to us.  Just days away from Christmas and there’s still time to get ready – to follow the urgent plea of John the Baptist to produce fruit of our repentance in the confessional.  Just days away from Christmas and there’s still time to recognize that Jesus is coming – and to get excited enough to rejoice and make our plans around Him above everything else.

But, if we’re honest, sometimes all that leaves us a little afraid…

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Joseph, Son of David, do not be afraid…

Have you ever noticed how often the announcement of Messiah’s coming is followed by the words do not be afraid?

On the surface, it doesn’t seem to make much sense.  Christmas is joyful and happy…the coming of Christ is exciting…at least it’s supposed to be.  But as I prayed – I could admit I’m afraid in some ways this Christmas.  Sometimes I’m afraid I won’t find the right gift for the people I love.  Often I’m afraid I won’t have time to do all the things that need to be done, and I’m afraid of what others will think of me if I don’t get it all done – truth be told, I’m sometimes afraid of what I’ll think of myself if I don’t get it all done.  Sometimes I’m afraid of the sadness Mom and I will feel in these holidays without my dad and my Grandmother – afraid the grief will overwhelm us.  (Many of you experience this fear whether your loved ones have gone this past year or years ago.)

If we’re not paying attention, we’ll miss the boat – so we have to get ready, because Jesus is coming!  But - what if He comes before I’ve found a way to show how much I love Him?  What if He comes before I find a way to love those in my life well enough?  What if Jesus comes before I’ve taken care of my spiritual things to do list?  What if He comes before I’ve been able to overcome the same pesky sins and habits in my life that I know the Just Judge of All Creation finds contrary to His goodness?  Sometimes ‘Jesus is coming’ leaves us a bit afraid.  

Sometimes there are parts of us – mingled with our genuine Christmas cheer – that are afraid when we hear that Jesus is coming because we realize we can never get ready on our own.  And we wonder…are we worthy…have we done our part…have we done enough…will we be ready?

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That’s why I think we so often encounter the reminder to ‘be not afraid’ when the coming of Christ is announced in Scripture.  To refocus us.  To remind us that the coming of Jesus Christ is the coming of Emmanuel – God with us; that this Jesus who is coming comes to us – as one of us – to save us.  His name literally means “God saves…”  He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world; the Prince of Peace, the Wonderful Counselor, the God who is Mighty enough to kill death, destroy sin, and SAVE US!  And in light of His coming, we have nothing to fear – not even our own inadequacy.    

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St. Paul tells us why we have no reason to be afraid.  Yes - the Just Judge is coming – but we don’t have to be afraid, because through Jesus we have received – you and I have already received by virtue of His first coming the grace that brings about the obedience of faith.  In a manger, beneath the shadow of a cross cast by that glorious star and among the triumphant serenade of heaven’s choirs, Jesus came and did the work that would give us the free gift of grace that can make us ready.  We have no need to fear the coming of Christ… because He accomplished at His first coming everything we need in order to be ready for His second coming!

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The Blessed Mother was troubled by the message of the angel because she was called to be something that seemed beyond her reach.  St. Joseph was afraid because life circumstances were spinning wildly out of control and beyond what he’d prepared for or imagined.  But – they were told:  

Do not be afraid!

Do you ever fear who you are called by God to be?  Priest?  Deacon?  Mom?  Dad?  Husband?  Wife?  Do you ever fear the way life seems to be spinning out of control – heading in a direction vastly different than what you’d planned or what you thought you wanted?  Those are ways that Jesus is coming to you!  Can you hear it?  In these last days before Christmas can you hear God saying Do not be afraid…for you have found favor with God…You can do this thing that God has called you to do…you will be mother or father to these children…you will serve the Church in this ministry…you will witness to my love throughout the world…you will teach others to know me personally as Lord and friend, Mighty God and Wonderful Counselor…(you will be my priest…)…you will do this because the Most High God has already done the work needed in your life…just keep paying attention…keep getting ready…because Jesus is coming…but don’t be afraid – just follow the example of Mary and Joseph; say:  Behold, I am the servant of the Lord…let it be done to me according to your word…, and then get up and do what God is asking you to do.

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Tanner Clark is a contemporary Christian artist; one of my favorite songs of his is not a Christmas song on its surface.  It’s called “Do Not Be Afraid.”  But it speaks to us in these last days of Advent.  Fear ain’t nothing but a liar – you don’t need to be afraid!  The coming of Christ means we can always hear these words in our heart: Don’t be afraid for I am with you, do not fear – I won’t let you fall. Do not be afraid.

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If we’re not paying attention, we’ll miss the boat.  So get ready – Jesus is coming!  But don’t be afraid…

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