Do Not be Afraid

In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”  Luke 1: 26-33 (This is a picture of a stained glass panel in St. Mary’s Cathedral in Cheyenne, Wyoming.)

 

Praying over today’s Gospel this morning, I became weepy and overcome with emotion.  It was Matthew’s account of the Angel of the Lord coming to Joseph in a dream, telling him that it was OK if Mary was pregnant, that he didn’t have to send her on her way, and that he should not be afraid to take her into his home.  (Matthew 1: 18-25).  This is a remarkable passage, so fraught with the knowledge of what was to happen, which was more than Joseph could possibly imagine.

In the passage from Luke’s Gospel below the photo, the angel Gabriel is announcing to Mary that she will have a baby who will take David’s throne and be a king whose reign will be eternal.  Oh, by the way, don’t be afraid.

In both passages, the angel assures the hearers of the news that there is no need for fear.  When I think of what Mary and Joseph have just been told, and that they should not be afraid, I ponder that in incredulity.  I’m a pretty faithful guy, but if I was told anything like that, I would doubt whether or not I actually heard it, much less not be afraid.

The accounts of Mary and Joseph being told about their yet-to-be-born baby are truly beyond comprehension.  These two have no idea what is in store, and having been given ominous messages from a direct messenger of God, they willingly accept their mission.  “Let it be done unto me according to thy word.”

Hence the weepy reaction today.  To think that our God would use these humble individuals to bring his only son to us, born into a simple family, to save us from our sins by dying a cruel and terrible death, and that we don’t deserve any of it.  He did it because he loves us.

Don’t be afraid.  Whatever you say, God.  I am yours.

Give yourself a treat.  Read these two passages, the one above from Luke and the one below from Matthew – out loud – and see what comes up.  Weepy is OK.

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.
When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph,
but before they lived together,
she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man,
yet unwilling to expose her to shame,
decided to divorce her quietly.
Such was his intention when, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,
“Joseph, son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.
For it is through the Holy Spirit
that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins.”
All this took place to fulfill
what the Lord had said through the prophet:

Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,

which means “God is with us.”
When Joseph awoke,
he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him
and took his wife into his home.
He had no relations with her until she bore a son,
and he named him Jesus.

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