Scripture: Luke 1:5-25
Key verses: (10-15a) 10Now at the time of the incense offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. 11Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him. 13But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. 14You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15for he will be great in the sight of the Lord.
Reflection: This Advent, in our Sunday morning sermons, we’ve been focused on the appearance of angels, and their message from God. Over and over again, in the stories leading up to the birth of Jesus, angels share the message “Don’t be afraid.” They say it to people with good reason to fear—people whose lives are about to be changed, and who are in the presence of a holy messenger announcing it.
Fear is a human response. It can help us not do stupid things. It can also debilitate us. The Advent stories this year can help us see fear in context. Perhaps there is value in coming right up next to our fear—getting acquainted with it—even embracing it. Then we can truly trust that the future is in God’s hands.
I recently saw a 16-minute short film called “Ten Meter Tower.” It was a 2017 Sundance short documentary made by two Swedish filmmakers. The filmmakers show a series of people on top of a ten-meter diving platform. Thirty-three feet in the air, the people have to face their fear of jumping off the platform. It’s a fascinating study of fear and bravery, thinking and doubting, and ultimately, trust. I didn’t expect it to be an Advent film, but I can’t quite get it out of my head this year as I hear angels saying, “Don’t be afraid.” If you have 16 minutes, (and don’t mind a couple of curse words said by Swedish people facing fear), you can watch it here.
May we all face the future with our eyes open wide to the presence of God with us, even when we are afraid.
Prayer: Lord, you tell your people over and over again not to fear. Help me to trust. Help me to see you with me always. In the name of Christ, whose advent we await, I pray. Amen.
Author: Julie Hester
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].