When You’re Scared

When was the last time you were afraid of something? Fear can affect us both mentally and physically. You can feel lightheaded, you probably feel your heart racing, maybe you experience a panic attack, or realize that your stomach is suddenly upset … the body manifests a multitude of reactions to fear.

Our 100 lb. dog had surgery last week that made her very wobbly when she came out of anesthesia. We had difficulty getting her in the van and up the stairs, resulting in her losing control of her back legs and possibly pulling a muscle or a tendon. For the next few days, she was afraid of steps. We realized this halfway up an exterior staircase at my father-in-law’s cottage, where her fear caused her to slip through the opening between steps . Fortunately she is large enough that she didn’t fall through, but she froze and refused to go any higher. It was a scary moment for the four of us as we tried to get her up the rest of the staircase. My heart was racing for the next 30 minutes. Being afraid is very strongly connected with feeling out of control, and nobody likes being out of control.

Today we read about the famous and successful Old Testament prophet, Elijah. We harken back to a time when right after a major victory, Elijah suddenly felt afraid and out of control:

I Kings 19:1-8 (Common English Bible)

19 Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, how he had killed all Baal’s prophets with the sword. Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah with this message: “May the gods do whatever they want to me if by this time tomorrow I haven’t made your life like the life of one of them.”

Elijah was terrified. He got up and ran for his life. He arrived at Beer-sheba in Judah and left his assistant there. He himself went farther on into the desert a day’s journey. He finally sat down under a solitary broom bush. He longed for his own death: “It’s more than enough, Lord! Take my life because I’m no better than my ancestors.” He lay down and slept under the solitary broom bush.

The contrast between the events in the previous passage, where Elijah single-handedly defeated the prophets of Baal, and this image of him cowering under a broom bush longing for death is stunning. It is a good reminder to us that even the strongest and most calm warrior can succumb to fear. The struggle is real.

Then suddenly a messenger tapped him and said to him, “Get up! Eat something!” Elijah opened his eyes and saw flatbread baked on glowing coals and a jar of water right by his head. He ate and drank, and then went back to sleep. The Lord’s messenger returned a second time and tapped him. “Get up!” the messenger said. “Eat something, because you have a difficult road ahead of you.” Elijah got up, ate and drank, and went refreshed by that food for forty days and nights until he arrived at Horeb, God’s mountain.

I love the interaction between the angel and Elijah. This angel wasn’t playin’. “Get up! Get up!” We think that someone having an “angelic voice” is a pleasant thing, but that is not what Elijah experienced. No, this angel sounded like a bullhorn in the pre-dawn hours that jolts you awake with its urgency.

“Get up!”

Is God calling you to get up and get moving? Is he trying to awaken you to an urgent situation that requires you to do something? Is the alarm clock going off and alerting you to change your behavior, your attitude, or your thoughts before it’s too late?

Wake up and eat the flatbread! You see, when God tells us to get up and get going, he always provides sustenance for the task and the journey.

So that thing that you have been avoiding, that idea that frightens the heck out of you, or that calling that has you wishing for the broom tree comes with the guarantee of God’s presence and provision.

You don’t have to be afraid.

Wake Up Call by Michelle Robertson

Missing Angel

Our church secretary walked into the office holding a large wooden angel. She had been helping pre-school parents park for our Christmas program when a women drove by and stopped to pull the angel out of her trunk. “I drive by your church every day and I noticed your nativity scene didn’t have an angel. I had this in my garage and I don’t need it, so I thought I would bring it here.”

First, who keeps random angels in their garage? And second, who doesn’t need an angel? But we are grateful for the much needed addition to our little corner nativity scene. I personally think she will fit right into the place.

The angel at the original nativity scene also came as a surprise to everyone.

Luke 2:8-20 New International Version (NIV)

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.

You betcha they were terrified. Wouldn’t you be? Having an otherworldly being suddenly descend from the skies and blinding you with all of its blazing luminescence would be a frightening thing indeed. I can’t figure out how they just didn’t run for the hills.

And then, she spoke:

 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Good news! Great joy! A savior is born! The long awaited Messiah has come! And he is the LORD. Her announcement introduced tremendous change, but it came with the assurance that this change would be good.

But did you catch the very first thing she said? “DO NOT BE AFRAID.”

As a matter of fact, angels offer the instruction “fear not” 58 times in the Old and New Testaments. It seems that every time they appeared, that was the first part of their message.

It was a message for then, and is a message for now. I believe there is a lot of fear and anxiety in our nation and in the world today. We fear many things: the effects of climate change on our planet, immigrants overrunning borders, guns, disease, gangs, our children’s futures, terrorism, vaccinations…one look around you and you will find something that has people terrified. And there are forces in the world that seem to exist only to perpetuate those fears.

Life involves a certain amount of fear because life involves a certain amount of change. And change is always a scary thing. A new job, a lost job, a pregnancy, a divorce, a biopsy, a diagnosis…change invokes fear. These things usually turn out to be alright in the end, but in the beginning, it is good to remember what the angels told us: do not be afraid.

The angels came to remind us that God is here. Whatever you are facing, whatever change is coming, whatever tragedy has befallen you, whatever disappointment you are experiencing, DO NOT BE AFRAID, for God is with you.

The shepherds learned that. They were the first to set aside their fears so that they could experience the incarnate God as he lay cooing in the manger. They heeded the command of the angel and thus experienced the presence of God in the flesh.

Where is God calling you to set aside your fears so that you can see his glory? Where are the angel’s words trying to take root in your heart so that you can move boldly into the change that God is preparing for you? How will you respond to his imminent presence?

In spite of all the anxiety and fear around us, let us worship this child as the Savior he was born to be. Let us resist those who would promote fear as a means of control, and realize that we are surrounded by a heavenly host that proclaims the power of God over all other powers on earth. Let us not resist change, but embrace it with the confidence of the children of God.

And most of all, let us be not afraid.

An angel holding an Angel.