9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.10 And the angel said unto them, FEAR NOT: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. — Luke 2. 9 – 10
We’ve all heard and quoted the proverbial “a picture is worth a thousand words.” So, when I look for images to cover our worship bulletin or to place in a letter like this one, I’m looking for an image that evokes a complex of feelings and thought, that references contemporary events, a Bible narrative or story, and that resonates with personal matters of our life. With that in mind, I ask that you spend some time in contemplation with the image above. Be careful not to rush the process for swift conclusions; walk a while in your imagination.
Consider that you might be on a road with the people on the image, walking parallel to them in the same direction, perhaps opposite them. Maybe you are on the same path, but they are slightly ahead of you and have taken a bend in the road you soon will navigate. I wonder if you will catch up to them and have a conversation? What would you learn about them? What would you share about yourself? How are your stories connected?
Notice that it is nighttime. The two silhouetted images appear against a star-filled sky with one particularly bright star and are descending from a hill or dune. One is riding a horse-like animal while the other walks ahead. Questions emerge: Are they a couple? Siblings? Strangers? Why is one riding and the other walking? Do they take turns? Are they alone or part of a larger caravan outside of the frame? Why are they traveling at night? Have they been traveling for long? Where are they geographically? Are they fleeing from someone, eagerly enroute to see family and friends, or simply out for an evening stroll? Are they motivated in their travels as those attempting to escape their past or as those eagerly running to embrace a welcoming future? Try journaling the questions you ask.
Now, take another moment, perhaps on a different day, and answer those same questions as applied to your life and to our times. Are you alone or with another? Do you know anyone who is traveling at night, perhaps in a caravan? Fleeing the past or embracing a future? Parallels and surprising insights are likely to emerge! Take note!
Then comes the comforting word of God that travels through the ages from prophets, heavenly angelic hosts, from Jesus and leaders who seek the well-being of the world: “FEAR NOT!” In times like ours and across generations, when perilous and foreboding events transpire, our fear threatens to paralyze us so that we reactively flee, fight, or freeze. “FEAR NOT!” The words embolden us to faith, to freedom, to choice, to response-ability! It is good to remember what we, in our fear, forget. Let us remember the story for the image above and how “fear not” applies.
The advent/Christmas narrative wonderfully relates how others exorcised their fear by exercising their faith so that the gifts of hope, peace, joy, love, and light become themes we can embody in our times as they did in theirs. Over the course of the season, I and others will offer messages in word, song, and visuals that will encourage each of us to choose faith over fear each day so that we may enjoy the true gifts of these holy days.
Invite your family and friends to our worship services and let us enjoy our story and community of faith together even as we share it with others!
May we all embrace the faith that conquers our fears! Pastor Brandon