“Do Not Be Afraid” Instead of “Merry Christmas”

“Do Not Be Afraid” Instead of “Merry Christmas” December 24, 2019

Do not be afraid!

For the Christmas Mass at Midnight, the readings are:  Isaiah 9:1-6; Titus 2:11-14; and Luke 2:1-14.

"Do not be afraid. Peace be with you. Receive the Holy Spirit." This image is a detail of Christ's head from the Prince of Peace icon at Prince of Peace Abbey.
Copyright 2006 © by Prince of Peace Abbey. Used with Permission.

At Midnight Mass on Christmas, the Gospel tells the hour of Christ’s birth with four phrases.

  • she gave birth to her firstborn son
  • She wrapped him in swaddling clothes
  • laid him in a manger
  • there was no room for them in the inn

But, this tight telling has nothing about the feelings of Joseph and Mary.

Thus, we don’t hear if they were sad, angry, afraid or joyful.

However, we hear the shepherds were full of fear.

The angel of the Lord appeared to them

and the glory of the Lord shone around them,

and they were struck with great fear.

Rightly so, because sometimes angels brought fearsome, angry messages from God.

Furthermore, angels came now and then to kill people.

Therefore, the shepherds had strong, Biblical reasons to be afraid, to be very afraid.

However, tonight was to be different.

The angel said to them,

“Do not be afraid”

“Do not be afraid!”

By now, the angel has said this four times.

Firstly, Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, met an angel who told him of the things to come.

“Do not be afraid!”

Secondly, Mary met an angel who greatly disturbed her with the greeting, “Hail to you, With-Grace-All-Filled!”

“Do not be afraid!”

Thirdly, Joseph met an angel who told him what was happening with Mary.

“Do not be afraid!”

Lastly, the shepherds met an angel telling them good news.

The angel said to them,

“Do not be afraid;

for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”

And so, great fear is to give way to great joy.

Zechariah, Mary, Joseph and the shepherds all heard an angel of the Lord say, “Do not be afraid!”

Then the angel gave them God’s plan of goodness and great joy.

a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord

The angel spoke three titles:  Savior, Christ, Lord.

For God’s people, those titles meant that God chose, anointed, crowned and sent the newborn to lead Israel in victory over the whole world.

Therefore, the child would need an army if he were to lead Israel to earthly triumph.

Whereupon the shepherds saw his army, but it was an unearthly one.

And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel,

praising God and saying:

“Glory to God in the highest

and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Battle cry and victory song of heaven’s army!

“Glory to God in the highest

and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Battle cry, soul song and mission of Christ the Lord and Savior!

However, this night’s first reading says the bloodied battle gear of warriors would become “fuel for flames,” for “a child is born,” the “Prince of Peace.”

Thus, he was not born for taking up earthly sword and spear to lead Israel in war against Caesar.

Rather, Christ battled to glorify the Father in a way that gave men and women peace with God.

Sin is the deadly foe of God’s glory and of our being at peace with God.

Moreover, the battleground is my heart and your hearts, our thoughts, choices and actions.

Are we ready for that kind of war?

The shepherds were afraid.

Zechariah was afraid.

Joseph was afraid.

Even Mary was afraid.

The angel said to them,

“Do not be afraid.”

I am afraid, because I could die defeated and conquered by my own sins.

Jesus never sinned, but even he still died.

However, he won the victory in just that way.

The Word of the Lord in the second reading for this night says:

our great God and savior Jesus Christ,

who gave himself for us to deliver us from all lawlessness

and to cleanse for himself a people as his own,

eager to do what is good.

Christ was born to give himself for us in his Body and Blood, thereby cleansing us in the new and eternal covenant for the forgiveness of sins.

Glory to God in the highest

and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.

The shepherds heard this angelic battle cry of Christ as they were keeping the night watch.

Until that moment, they were standing ready to do battle against wild beasts and thieves.

Similarly, if we would receive joy and victory from Christ, then we must watch.

We must stand ready to battle against sin that creeps forth like beast or thief in the darkened moments of our souls.

For the Savior is no longer in a manger, but in a moment of prayer or a celebration of worship.

The Lord is in anyone needing our mercy, service, charity and justice.

Christ is within us in our turning away from sin that strays from the glory of God and the good of our neighbor.

Thus, wherever Christ comes, we must turn and go to him as the shepherds turned straightaway to Bethlehem.

Turn. Love. Repeat. As often as you can, as often as you must.

And so, in the same vein, the second reading tells us:

The grace of God has appeared, saving all

and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires

and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age

The grace of God once appeared as a child of flesh and blood in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.

He still comes in flesh and blood swaddled in the seeming of food and drink, inviting us to exchange vows with him in the new and eternal covenant for the forgiveness of sins.

Therefore, we seek him in his Eucharistic Body and Blood, where he bids us to carry his victory into our lives, “Do this in memory of me.”

Glory to God in the highest

and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.

Do not be afraid!

Nonetheless, Merry Christmas!

Dear Readers of “Turn. Love. Repeat.”
California where I reside had a new law go into effect on January 1, 2020. California Assembly Bill 5 forbids freelance writers, editors and photographers from providing more than 35 content submissions to a media organization per year unless the organization hires the freelancer as a salaried employee. Patheos is a media organization, and I am a freelancer. So now I must limit my posts to 35 per year, or 1 post about every 10 days. So as not to exceed my limit here at Patheos, I will post my “extra” pieces at my own blog, Monk Notes.

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