Disheveled Theologian: Theological Stocking Stuffers, Week 2 -- Angel Anxiety Advice
When I was small, I had a list a things I was afraid of. 1) Snakes coming out of the garden hose. 2) Quicksand. 3) The narrow path down to the beach. 4) Cougars.
Number 1 never panned out, thankfully. Number 2 proved to be far more of a problem in the jungles of the Amazon than in Washington State. Number 3 turned into an embarrassing memory (maybe I’ll share it will you all someday). Number 4 turned out to be the wind.
There was one fear I didn’t mention. The fear of reaching into dark places. This kept me from reaching into crevices in rocks or trees. From reaching into holes in the ground. From reaching into the back of the deepest kitchen cupboard. But it never kept me from reaching into my stocking on Christmas morning.
As we reach into our theological stockings this week, we’re looking at fear. And four good reasons to leave your fears behind.
Four different characters in the Christmas story experienced fear. In each case I don’t think they can really be blamed for their fear because, unlike the fear of quicksand, their fear was legitimate. Each of the instances involved the sudden appearance of a heavenly being.
I mentioned Zechariah last week. As a priest assigned to temporary duty in the temple, he was the one chosen by lot to burn incense that day. He was inside, alone, when out of nowhere an angel of the Lord appeared. Luke 1:12-13 states, “When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard’.”
Angel Anxiety Advice Instance One: It’s all good; your prayers are heard.
Angel Anxiety Advice Instance Two (AAA #2) happened to Mary, over in verse 30 of the same chapter. Mary had been minding her own business when out of the blue Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.” You’re going to have the baby of all babies, and it will be OK.
AAA #2: It’s all good; you are special in God’s eyes.
Meanwhile, over at Joseph’s home, an angel of the Lord again made a visit, though this visit happened in a slightly less frightening manner. Joseph knew about Mary’s pregnancy — I’m sure they had an interesting talk together about her angelic news. This information didn’t sit well in Joseph’s heart, but he was a good man and he didn’t want to put Mary to public shame with an ugly split, so he “had in mind to divorce her quietly” (Matthew 1:19).
But God changed his mind. As Joseph was sleeping one night, “an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (verse 20, 21).
AAA #3: It’s all good; the Holy Spirit is at work.
The fourth angelic visit came to the shepherds. These normal, everyday guys, out watching sheep in a cold field, suddenly got invited to the most important birth the world will ever see. The angel of the Lord appeared to them in all his glory and they were, understandably, “terrified”. But, Luke 2, verse 10 says, “the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news…’.”
AAA #4: It’s all good; amazing things are happening.
Four angelic visits. Four good reasons to not be afraid: your prayers are heard, you are special in God’s eyes (no, we’re none of us Mary, but we’re all of us uniquely chosen to do good works), the Holy Spirit continues to work within us, and amazing things are happening through the power of God at work in the world.
Angel Anxiety Advice: always good material to fill our theological stockings.
Gretchen O’Donnell is a freelance writer who lives in Worthington with her husband and three children. She has a master’s degree from Bethel Seminary and enjoys writing about the things she sees and applying theological truths to everyday situations. Her column, The Disheveled Theologian, is published weekly. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.