Fear Not or Fear Knot
I Was Thinking…
I have seen it all my life but this year, for some reason, it is jumping off the page at me. The angels, the messengers, were sent as the Messiah was sent to say to the Shepherds (and to us, I think) as a very first message “Fear Not!” Mathew Pinson, President of our Georgia Methodist Foundation and a dear friend, has pointed this out for me on several occasions…and, well, it sticks with me this year, unlike any year I can remember. Why was it important that the first messengers that came with the greatest message ever given, that God incarnate had been born, feel a need to say first and foremost “Fear not”?
Was it because these heavenly beings in the sky would startle those shepherds? Perhaps. I surmise that these keepers of the flock were used to the night shift and all the spooky possibilities of the dark. Mostly, they must have watched the edges of the flock rather than the sky, even though I can’t imagine they were not in awe from time to time at the stars and moon of the sky. So being startled is reasonable and it might just have been why the angels said so readily “Fear Not."
But what if it was because of something more? What if the angels knew what the shepherds were yet to know? What if the angels knew that this baby born in a manger in Bethlehem was going to stir the pot of life in ways that would be fearful to human beings? What if they already knew that following this baby would be a life-and-death proposition? What if they already knew that a cuddly baby would be deceiving with all the ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ that come with babyhood…that following the life path of this baby would be everything BUT ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’? What if their ‘Fear Not!” was a precursor to many other ‘fear nots’ that would be necessary for people like the shepherds to accept all this baby would offer for life transformation and for all eternity? What if…?
Undoubtedly, ‘fear’ is a reasonable reaction to certain environmental stimuli. However, it seems to be one of those reactions that can move quickly into the world of ‘unhealthy reaction’. A reaction that paralyzes and stunts growth and life fulfillment. I am afraid of being struck by an automobile, therefore, I’m cautious crossing a street. But if my fear of being struck by an automobile creates a phobia that causes me to never cross any street, then I’m in trouble. This is when ‘fear not’ becomes a ‘fear knot’.
I can worry too much about what others think (maybe you can too.) I can become so intentional about pleasing others that I am knotted up in a ‘fear knot’. I can be so tightly concerned that I do not follow Christ for fear someone will think I’m ‘radical’ or ‘out of touch with real life’ or a ‘religious freak’ that my ‘fear not’ becomes a ‘fear knot’.
Perhaps as Advent draws near to Christmas, we might untangle our ‘fear knots’ and understand completely our ‘fear nots’. Following Jesus requires understanding that the road is not always easy. There are a few ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ but there is challenge and misunderstanding. However, with the Emmanuel, ‘God with us’, the ‘fear nots’ do not paralyze, nor do they conquer. This is perhaps why the angels sang so loudly “Fear not, for behold I bring you good news of great joy!” This ‘good news’ may have been born in a manger, but he was born as an expert in untangling ‘fear knots’…Joy to the World!
The Rev. Dr. Terry E. Walton
Executive Assistant to the Bishop