As a non-Jew, Luke’s gospel is written in a beautifully inclusive way. He is the evangelist who writes for the outsiders, for the outcasts, for the ones you wouldn’t normally invite to your dining room table. In Luke’s birth narrative, you have everyone there. We see Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. We see shepherds and angels.
(We don’t see the wise men, because they come later. Hello, Epiphany.)
Everyone is welcome here.
This Sunday my pastor preached a Christmas message pointing out the first ever pre-Christmas message. The first words spoken are: “Do not be afraid.”
It gets better: “Behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” A savior is born.
These are the words the world has been longing for. This is the truth we are preparing our hearts for through the season of Advent. This is the proclamation that changes history. God becomes one of us.
Emmanuel. God is with us.
Yet we are told: “Do not be afraid.”
The message to Joseph: do not be afraid.
The message to Mary: do not be afraid.
The message to the shepherds: do not be afraid.
Spanning two thousands years, no matter our circumstance, the message is to us as well: do not be afraid.
In the book, Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation, Parker Palmer says,
“It is no accident that all of the world’s wisdom traditions address the fact of fear, for all of them originated in the human struggle to overcome this ancient enemy. And all of these traditions, despite their great diversity, unite in one exhortation to those who walk in their ways: ‘Be not afraid.’”
Do not be afraid.
It is the message to all those who are sick or suffering. It is the message to those who feel lost or lonely, especially this time of year. It is the message for those without anything to eat. It is the message for those whose nights are even darker. It is a message to those who feel forgotten. It is the message for those who feel they will always be alone.
The Christmas message is this: God is with us. He did not come in a powerful way. He came in a helpless and dependent baby. He put on flesh, walked on earth.
He still comes to us. He still walks with us.
Christmas is about redemption. We read the Christmas story on the other side of Easter. But Christmas is also the story of our belovedness. We are so loved by God that he dreams and struggles with us.
In his book, Prototype, Jonathan Martin writes:
“It turns out that knowing how loved we are by God makes all the difference in the kind of people we will become.”
Do not be afraid. Love has won.
God is with us.