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  • Rev. Diana Wright

Fear Not?

1 ADVENT, YEAR C

2 DEC 2018

Welcome to the new year. As it is with the other new year, we enter it with a mix of expectation and trepidation. The liturgical new year has one great advantage: we can choose how we live this new year. We can choose to live in the mystery of the almost but not just yet, between the expected birth of Jesus and the known death and resurrection.

This year I would like you to consider living in the weeks of Advent with wonder; truth, justice and finally each other. Let us this week draw close, draw near, to a sense of wonder. Wonder at all kinds of things.

Just yesterday I was walking in the woods around our house, taking a sort of path down a steep hill to what was once an old road, or at least I think it was. Kathy, my step daughter, has been working at clearing a path down the hill and in the course of doing that has been finding all sorts of treasures. There are many fallen trees and as we looked, we could see all sorts of fungi growing on them. Flat, puffy, white, brown. Intricate and beautiful. I am sure they were making nice homes for the tiny fairies that must live in the woods.

Wonder comes with so many things, as when you watch a baby being born, giving its first lusty cry in the brave new world. There are no words; there is only a holy awe at the marvel of it all.

Wonder comes when you see the Northern Lights dancing, when you are snowed in by a blizzard, when you dog comes up and settles next to you, giving you unconditional love

Wonder comes when we share a meal together. Beautiful memories come from food and drink and in that sharing we make a bond with one another. Why else is communion a sacrament, a holy meal?

Wonder comes when we read a great book or read a poem. Who can better tell us about God than the poets and the writers? I see God more in the poetry of Mary Oliver or the novels of Flannery O’Connor or in the world created by CS Lewis.

Wonder dwells with us and in us when our child comes up and hugs us, when they discover mud puddles for the first time or roll in the snow or pick their first bouquet of dandelions and bring them to you.

Advent should make us come near to wonder, to embrace it and reintegrate it into our very souls. Jeremiah, in the midst of captivity in Babylon says God is with God’s people and comforts them with words of the savior to come. God will not abandon us. Paul is full of wonder at what God has done in making love have a home, where we can all love one another.

Luke may seem to strike a more somber note: is the world coming to an end? Should we be filled with fear? No: we should be filled with wonder and longing. For Jesus is promising to us the coming of the kindom of God, the reign of justice and peace on earth.

One of the lessons for Advent is to rediscover once again why Jesus came to us. And why is that? Perhaps to free us from fear.

David Lose, an inciteful Lutheran pastor says:

Fear is the means by which we turn those who are in some fashion different from us into an enemy, a people against whom we should war.[1]

When we fear we turn inward, we horde in the belief there is never going to be enough. Fear makes us distrust those who are different and creates a world where it is “us or them.” When I start thinking that, I become mired in suspicion and mistrust and then my heart cannot be open to the Word made flesh, not open to the world that God is trying to create. Over and over the angels tell us to “fear not” but we do and that fear drives us to destruction, our own and others. Should you and I believe that Luke is telling us the end of everything will come and if we are not in the right camp, with the right people, we will perish? Listen again!!! Luke’s Jesus tells us that it is not being of the right camp of believers but that “fear and foreboding” are what will do us in; we will be weighed down with the worries of this life. Instead we need to have wonder and awe, like a child, otherwise we will not see the kindom!! Do not let yourselves be mired in misery, do not be self-pitying and, for goodness sake, do not fear. Until I understood Jesus and the coming reign of God, I did not understand what Franklin Roosevelt meant when he said we have nothing to fear but fear itself. Fear paralyzes and fear is why the world was and is in a terrible way.

Are you willing this Advent to caste out fear and replace it with wonder? If you are then you will see that you are called, in your own way in your own place and in your own time, to make the kindom of God a reality. Pray for people, even those you believe are your enemies. Say a kind word. No deed of kindness and compassion is too small.

No matter how sincere any government might be or how much they do for all the people in their care, no earthly powers will every usher in the kindom as God intended. In western Europe and North America, we, for a long time, lived with the idea that the enlightenment and science would take the world to a new level of perfection. It is not that science failed us; it is that it was never possible in a world where fear exists for science and rationalism to be other than a tool for good and evil. Vaccines and medicines save lives in mass; modern weapons destroy them in mass. Science is not the answer; it is a tool. God and the message of Jesus Christ are the answer.

Caste aside fear; go out and catch a snowflake in your mouth. Dance. Do a deed of kindness and compassion each day. If you do, if you offer the antidote to hatred and fear, you will be there and will “stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.

[1] Lose, David. Advent 1C:Courage! http://www.davidlose.net/2018/11/advent-1-c-courage/


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