A friend-in-ministry and I concluded recently that much of our time is involved in offering reassurance and embodying Jesus’ oft-repeated command, do not worry.
In these uncertain times these words are needed even more. In the last week I’ve reassured someone that their feet aren’t ugly, given directions to someone feeling hopelessly lost, lead a service which had to be adapted at the last minute, assured a new contact that cancelling a meeting wasn’t the end of the world, and listened to two Ukrainian nationals as they wept for their homeland.
My friend has observed in her appointment that people often look to her for reassurance. Even when she herself is uncertain about what to do, she recognises the importance of being a calm, non-anxious presence and modelling this in leadership.
It is said that Jesus gave this instruction more than any other. Fear not, do not worry, be not afraid appear in the gospel accounts many, many times. With good reason! Jesus knew well the sorts of things we fret about, mull over in the small hours when we can’t sleep, and that are at the heart of our deepest fears.
Almost everyone in the nativity story is fearful at some stage. Zechariah (Luke 1:11-12), Mary (Luke 1:30), Joseph (Matthew 1:20), the shepherds (Luke 2:8-10). Add to these, the anxiousness which grips the whole of Jerusalem as a result of the magi’s visit (Matthew 2: 3).
Do not be afraid is the message of the angels at each stage of the story.
John Lennon, famously quoting Brazilian writer Fernando Sabino once declared, Everything will be OK in the end; if it’s not OK it’s not the end. Not only is this a clever statement but it is true!
As we enter into the weeks of Advent, we remember and celebrate Jesus’ birth 2000 years ago, and we pray in hopeful expectation for the day of Jesus’ return. For the day when … there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain… (Revelation 21: 4).1
Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in thee. Charles Wesley.
Deacon Pru Cahill.