We are surrounded by fearful messages these days. Whether the subject of conversation is Brexit, politics in general or the climate emergency, we hear loud, influential voices telling us that we need to be very afraid. As we gear ourselves up for another General Election, some of these voices are getting louder and louder.
Of course, there are a good many things that we should be concerned about in our country and in our world today but the problem with fear is that it is often paralysing. It can prevent those who know that ‘something is wrong’ from going to the doctor and getting a diagnosis and treatment. It can prevent those with money worries from seeking help and advice. Fear can stop us in our tracks and lead to inaction. Inaction can make everything worse. So here’s a plea. If you read this before December 12th and you have a vote, please, whatever your political persuasion, use it and, if you possibly can, think about matters other than Brexit. There are, for example, crises in the education system and the health service as well as with the climate and all of these things, and more, seriously need to be addressed. Inaction isn’t an option. Something needs to be done. And we cannot allow cynicism, apathy or fear to stop us from playing our part.
When, in the Christmas story, the angels appear to the shepherds, the first words uttered are, ‘Do not be afraid’ - the very same words that an angel had spoken to an unmarried, pregnant young woman nine months earlier. ‘Do not be afraid’. In each case, the angel (God’s representative) understood that nothing would be possible if those listening were paralysed by fear. Mary and the shepherds needed to be set free to get on with things, be that bringing a precious child to birth or simply catching a glimpse of God in the most unlikely of circumstances and bearing witness to that. It was vital that the first words they heard were gentle, reassuring ones but also words that spurred them into action. These four words made everything that followed possible.
As we celebrate Jesus’ birth once again, the good news of great joy that we can hold onto is that we too have nothing to fear. Whatever our concerns about our country or the world in general, whatever happens in it or to it, God is with us. That’s the message of Christmas. God is with us. God is with us. God is with us. God is with us.
This knowledge should set us free to challenge those who’d keep us fearful. It should inspire us to work for the kind of world that God loved into being and longs for still - a sustainable world that each and every person and creature on this planet can enjoy.
Wishing you and your families and friends a joyful and peaceful Christmas.
Paul, Rebecca, Amélie and Matilda