Fourth Sunday of Advent - 18th December, 2016
Liturgical ReflectionMatthew 1: 18-24
‘Don’t be afraid’
Some people really fear the approach of Christmas. One person I know wanted to skip it altogether this year! Maybe it was the thought of shopping, extra cooking, gifts, parties etc. All of these take energy and extra spending. Or the fear can be of family gatherings when relationships that should be loving at this time, become more strained. We know these don’t make the whole story of Christmas, but are hard to modify.
It may be that all is well, except someone much loved is missing this year. Grief and loss seem more poignant at Christmas. Many are away from home and fear loneliness at this time. I’ve spent Christmas Day out of Australia, was rather isolated, among non-Christians and felt especially lonely and disconnected.
We can take heart; there was plenty of fear around the birth of Jesus at Bethlehem. Joseph feared when the angel told him to take Mary for his wife. It was not what he thought a righteous man should do ‘but he trusted God and so overcame his fear’.
What young maiden, who ‘knew not man’ would not fear if asked to bear a child that would be conceived of the Holy Spirit? Mary trusted her God and so overcame her fear and said 'Yes'.
The shepherds who were simply minding their sheep were greatly disturbed by voices they had never heard before. Singing filled the sky! No wonder they feared! Yet they trusted the angelic voices and went to Bethlehem.
“All of us are touched by fear but we must not allow our fears to cripple us”. The angel had the same message for Joseph, for Mary, the shepherds and us. ‘Don’t be afraid’ because God is with you. Good News is breaking through all the fear and human hesitation. This great mystery can absorb it all and lead us gently from fear to trust, to faith, to joy.
Even amid the fear and worries surrounding Christmas, it is also easier to trust at Christmas because we feel God is very close and loving and comes to us in the form of a baby. And surely no one is afraid of a baby!
June Peck OP
Adapted and with ideas and quotes from Flor MCarthy New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies Year A, Dublin Publications 1998, Fourth Sunday of Advent Homily 3 pages 32-33