2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16
Do not be afraid.
This is a strange greeting, isn’t it? Yet this is how Gabriel, in the Gospel of Luke, says hello to Mary and Zechariah both.
Do not be afraid – this is the greeting the Angels give the shepherds.
“Each word of assurance offered by the angel is not without cause. Indeed, each instance is accompanied by an awe-inspiring, even unusual moment that reasonably sparks wonder and even fear. Indeed, the practice of offering a word of assurance at moments of supernatural wonder and disruption to the norms of daily life is something Jesus takes up in his ministry later in the gospel.” ((Shivey Smith))
Jesus will tell Simon – do not be afraid, from now on, you wish fish for people. To Jarius – do not be afraid! Just believe, and your daughter will be healed. And to the disciples, and to us, Jesus will say, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom”
Do not be afraid.
It’s a strange greeting, but maybe one we should use.
Do not be afraid, it is Christmas Eve and the very God who crafted your bones from atoms, and the cosmos from chaos, who has numbered your head hair and set breath in the lungs of dinosaurs and humans alike – has come to us as a helpless baby who can’t even find his fingers to put in his mouth let alone walk, talk, or rule as our prince of peace.
Do not be afraid – God’s got this.
Do not be afraid – Mary – you are favored with a child conceived out of wedlock, to be born in a barn, raised as a refugee, condemned as a criminal, and murdered before your eyes.
But God’s got this.
Do not be afraid, Saint Michael’s – we have God’s favor, too. And it isn’t good times, and wealth. God’s favor isn’t an easy life and endless happiness. God’s favor is messier.
Like – new born diaper messy.
Like – 3-days dead Lazarus messy.
Like – empty tombs and locked doors and miracles and crucifixions and martyrs and loving that person you’d love to hate messy.
God’s favor is an invite to be part of the very re-creation of the world.
Do not be afraid – God’s got this – and God wants you to be a part of it.
Do not be afraid “functions as an invitation for Mary to do the unusual and the bold for the sake of the entire world because “nothing will be impossible with God”” ((shivey smith))
Do not be afraid is our invitation to step out and do the unusual and the bold too – because the house and kin-dom of God are now forever sure.
The unusual – that which isn’t to be mentioned in polite company – we’re to bring up those topics and causes, and live out that unusual way of reaching out to the outcasts, the marginalized, the vulnerable, the hated. Do not be afraid – you’re going to get filthy on the outside, but inside, you’ll be whiter than snow. Do not be afraid – God is with you.
We’re invited to be bold. To speak the words people do not want to hear. To preach love when everyone is throwing stones. To be God’s advocate when that is anything but popular. But do not be afraid – God is with you.
Anything is possible for God… God does miracles in the Bible, and is doing miracles now. So why does God bother with the messiness of involving us? Rev. Kathryn Matthews of the UCC writes, “we suppose that God could have chosen to save the world, to fulfill God’s promises of old all on God’s own; after all, nothing is impossible with God.
However, this humble but earth-shaking conversation [between Mary and Gabriel] tells us that God wants humanity to be part of the effort, even if it makes things much more complicated and even difficult (which it does): As Brian K. Peterson writes, “God apparently is not willing to do this behind our backs or without our own participation” (New Proclamation Year B 2008).”
Think about it – if you’re not invested into the world, will you care for it?
If you don’t have ownership, will you protect it?
I hear this time of year many people complain that kids have too many belongings, that everything is handed to them, and they don’t appreciate what they have then.
I hear all the time that said about my own generation.
There’s some truth to this, and it has nothing to do with age or generation. It has to do with investment.
I care more about those things I have spent time on, loved, prayed over, hoped for, and fought for. I care more about what I have tangibly put my hands on than what I have only a dim understanding of.
I care more about people I know, then those I don’t know.
You’re likely the same.
Maybe, God comes with this strange greeting of ‘do not be afraid’ and then leaps into humanity on humanity’s terms as a messy baby to get us more invested, more involved, with the cares of God – with the cares of re-creating the world into a place of love, hope, peace and joy.
Maybe we have a hard time loving the hard to fathom God of the universe… but we know how to love a baby, a child, a person. And so, God in the flesh, invites us to start loving others here.
And, maybe you can’t really care about a billion people you’ve never met… but you can care very dearly for your neighbor. And God says – yes! Do it. Love them deeply. Do not be afraid – I got this – But I want you to be a part of it, doing your own small part.
Here we are – our last Sunday of Advent, on Christmas Eve it’sself – what charity am I going to speak about?
Our own. Where we are doing our small part.
I’m talking about the moms and dads, grandparents, and aunts and uncles and friends and cousins in Baltimore and around the city who are sitting down today to eat a meal you donated.
I’m talking about the kids who don’t have to worry about if there will be breakfast tomorrow on Christmas morning because of you.
The Baltimore Thurston Food Pantry is our charity for today. It is messy. It is chaotic. It is God’s work in our community. It is an unusual and bold way God invites us to work alongside God.
Yes, there are food stamps. These takes weeks to apply and receive. People tend to like to eat every day and not once every few weeks.
Yes, there is emergency assistance. What if your emergency lasts a month – or two – before you’re able to find another job?
Yes, there are people ‘cheating the system.’ What does Tabitha do to earn a resurrection? What does Lazarus do? What have you done to earn God’s love?
Nothing. Nada. Zip.
God just loves you. And we’re called to just love others.
No qualifications asked.
Do not be afraid – God’s got this – and wants us to get involved too.
Needing a gift for that hard-to-buy-for-person who has everything? Now? In the final hours? Consider donating in their name.
From manger to temple, and from senate and house to our local food pantry – from the lowly to high and high to lowly – God is working, and inviting us, to make the vertical world horizontal, to be bold, to be unusual, to love justice and walk humbly and let our lives be our message of God’s radical love.