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There are no Advent midweek worship services this year (2020).
Pastor Lara is providing weekly devotional reflections. It is our prayer that these reflections bring you a sense of hope and peace.
December 2, 2020
The angel said, “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. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord.”
Zechariah said to the angel, “How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.” The angel replied, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. But now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur.”
As a priest, Zechariah knew what God was capable of. He’d studied the stories and spent his life in service to God. So, he shouldn’t have been surprised at Gabriel’s news. But because Zechariah didn’t receive it, Gabriel rendered him mute until the day his son was named.
Having a messenger of God appear out of nowhere would be unnerving; but to not be able to speak for roughly 9 months afterward is something else entirely.
We aren’t told, but we can imagine that Zechariah probably spent the first few days or weeks of his condition experiencing a certain level of anxiety and even fear. But at some point that passed, and on the day his son was named Zechariah praised God and spoke a prophecy of hope for all God’s people.
Throughout the Bible, the words, “Do not be afraid” – or a variation of them – are spoken more than 350 times. With the way we structure our yearly calendar, that works out to almost once per day.
But God and God’s messengers aren’t telling us to never be afraid or to ignore our fears. They’re acknowledging a very real human emotion, and what they’re saying is, “don’t let it consume you.” Don’t let the fear dictate how you live your life. It’s easy to say, but tough to do.
During the season of Advent, we hear the words “Do not be afraid” almost every week and they are well-timed. Usually, this is a season of joy and hope – and we wait with anticipation that something good is going to come because Christ’s birth changed the world.
But this year is different. Fear seems to be rampant.
We’ve seen it over the last nine months as people panic-buy toilet paper, more cleaning products than they’ll ever need, and any food they can reasonably store – and even food they can’t reasonably store. Instead of anticipating something wonderful, we’re impatient. And short-tempered. And ready for all of this to just be done. Fear has us in a vice-grip.
The way to release it is to name it. To say the words, “God, I am afraid.” Admitting it won’t make it disappear, but giving it to God makes it not quite so overwhelming.
This week, I invite you to name your fears to God. And if that’s too much, simply pause and say the words, “God, I am afraid.” Let God take your fears and fill you with a sense of hope for what is to come.
Please pray with me: Holy God, when fear overwhelms us and we can’t see a way out, help us to let go of it. Calm our troubled hearts and provide hope in our fearful world. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.