Senior Minister’s Message
Rev. Dr. Mark Boyea
They are the first words spoken by any character in the Christmas Eve story from Luke’s Gospel – the one we tell each year at FCC during the 10pm worship celebration. They are spoken by an angel – a messenger – of the Lord, usually believed to be Gabriel though Luke doesn’t specify, and directed at the shepherds watching over their flocks through the night.
Those words are: “Do not be afraid”.
The commemoration of Christmas – the birth of Jesus that those words are the opening line to – is now over. The start of a new year has either come or lies just around the corner as you read this. But those words remain. Those words should remain.
“Do not be afraid.”
Jesus would come to understand what God understood when sending Gabriel to deliver those first words on Christmas Eve – that fear is the greatest enemy of the spirit – that fear more than anything else drives us to close off our minds and our hearts, and when those close our spirits are deprived of the energy and the courage they need to thrive.
In her recent best-selling book, Rising Strong, Brene Brown, a professor of social work, says that in her research over the past thirteen years, she has “watched fear run roughshod over our families and communities”. And how do we rise above it – rise strong? Brown suggests that we must acquire two primary traits. One is the ability to welcome, or at least tolerate, discomfort and uncertainty. Brown claims that the inability to manage those leads us to perfectionism, blame and rationalization. The other is curiosity. Those who rise strong, Brown says, are willing to dig deeper into the complexity of problems, issues and other people instead of shutting themselves off and making quick, definitive assessments instead.
We seem to be in a time where we are being encouraged to live in constant fear of everything imaginable. But while fear in the face of clear, present and immanent danger is reasonable and understandable, for those of us in this country to live in fear is not. To do that is to stifle the curiosity and ability to accept uncertainty we need to rise strong as a nation. And as “Christmas people”, doing that closes off our minds and our hearts, and therefore our spirits – the spirit of God within each of us – the spirit of God which through that angel on Christmas Eve said, first and foremost, to the shepherds and us, “Do not be afraid”.
“Do not be afraid”, God says to us, “because I am with you”.
“Do not be afraid. Rise strong.”