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Gospel Message and Sermon

December 3, 2017

Luke 1 Do Not Be Afraid: Zechariah and Mary

Fear is powerful. Rhonda Britten in her book, Fearless Living, says “Fear is the gatekeeper of your comfort zone.”

How are we called to move past our fear–past our comfort zones–so that we can offer more hope, more peace, more joy, more love and more life?

We live in a time when we are exposed to much information that causes fear and anxiety. “Flying in the face of fear” means putting out information to counteract the pervasive messages of fear.

The season of Advent is a time in the Christian faith that we remember those who also knew fear—fear of moving past their comfort zones to receive an angel’s message and trust that God was with them.

Zechariah and Elizabeth had prayed for years to become parents. Now they are old and hope for a child was long gone.

Luke tells us:

When Zechariah saw the angel, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him. But 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. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” 

He was terrified—fear overwhelmed him. Yet the angel says, “Do not be afraid Zechariah, your prayer has been heard.”

Luke then shares another angel visit:

And the angel came to Mary and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you. But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

“The Lord is with you, Mary; do not be afraid.” Imagine for a moment you are Zechariah or Mary — a messenger of God, an angel, comes to visit you. That alone would freak some of us out!

How can we hear the angel’s message amid our fear? The angel says, “Do not be afraid”—calming our fears must be necessary to hear God’s message. It doesn’t change the message or the challenges it will bring; it helps us go beyond our fear.

We live in a time when we are exposed to so much information that causes fear and anxiety; yet our faith calls us live beyond our fear to offer hope, joy, peace and love wherever we go. How do we live with hope in these challenging times?

Rhonda Britten in her book, Fearless Living says, “When we passively wait, we are living in fear.” When we wait for circumstances outside of ourselves to change so we might feel hope, peace, joy or love or to live our lives fully, we rob ourselves of the chance to have those things right now.

Cultivating or nurturing those things means we accept and claim our agency to make our lives our own, and move freely into the future no matter the circumstances of our lives or the world around us. And when we do that, we are living fully into who God calls us to be because we have the power to make a difference–to help shift circumstances–rather than live in fear of them.

In these next few weeks I want to encourage us to nurture hope, peace, joy and love. The candle lighting liturgy said we claim this candle symbolizes a light more true, more powerful, more faithful than any of the things that make us afraid.

So, consider taking a moment every day to light a candle to shine a light into the dark, and remember the angel said, “do not be afraid.” Look for the places where hope is being nurtured. It might be the sharing of gifts for those in need; visiting someone in the hospital or nursing home; a kindness to a stranger; letting someone go in front of you in a shopping line; talking to someone you know is lonely, or even better—go visit that person.

As you go through this week, use the hashtag #morehope to post on social media where hope is being fostered.

As part of our Advent journey, we are going to sing a chorus as a reminder of the Angel’s message—Be Not Afraid.

Be not afraid
I go before you always
Come follow me
And I will give you rest.

Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Normal fear protects us; abnormal fear paralyzes us. Normal fear motivates us to improve our individual and collective welfare; abnormal fear constantly poisons and distorts our inner lives.”

The security God offers is not a promise of what won’t happen but a promise of what will happen; God will be with us even in life-threatening danger.

How are we called to move past our fear–past our comfort zones–so that we can offer more hope, more peace, more joy, more love and more life? We live in a time when we are exposed to much information that causes fear and anxiety. “Flying in the face of fear” means putting out information to counteract the pervasive messages of fear.

The season of Advent is a time in the Christian faith that we remember those who also knew fear—fear of moving past their comfort zones to receive an angel’s message and trust that God was with them.


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