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Drop the Blanket

December 21, 2011

1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed . 2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) 3 And all went to be taxed , every one into his own city. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. 6 And so it was , that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered . 7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes , and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. 8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field , keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And, lo , the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid . 10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold , I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes , lying in a manger. 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying , 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. (Luke 2:1-14 KJV)

Fear is a natural reaction. No getting around that. And there’s much to be afraid of in the world: terrorism, hunger, oppression, broken relationships, war, abuse, economic chaos, cancer, unemployment, monotony… We could make a long list, even in just a couple of minutes. We long for security and safety, or at least meaning. I’ve heard neighbors wish for some good news for a change, since media outlets consistently make sure we are aware of the bad kind. While I believe that light has already broken into the world (John 1:5) there remains a hell of a lot of darkness around. Perhaps then we have something in common with the dark context the characters in our Advent texts inhabited?

Out of the darkness comes something unexpected: a message of “good news”. And the message begins the same way, whether it was to the teenaged mother-to-be or to the shepherds out on the margins.

“Fear not.” “Do not be afraid.”

Easier said than done to be sure. In those days “good news” was political. Luke is not shy with the political language, setting up the story while subverting the empire with its own language. And it starts to sound like this is a story about allegiance. A choice. And this young woman and these shepherds made the choice that fear would not keep them from joining their stories with this one, and moving it forward.

Every year I will watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” It has been a favorite since I was very little. But it wasn’t until adulthood that I noticed within this simple story a poignant visual message about dealing with fear. Watch the clip and see if you notice it…

What did Linus do when he quoted “Fear not”? He drops his security blanket. I can’t remember him voluntarily relinquishing this favorite possession any other time. But I find it interesting that here, as he is sharing good news of God’s work in the world, that he drops the blanket and his focus is completely on this Story.

Not giving in to fear is a posture. It’s one that Jesus’ mother Mary demonstrated (Luke 1:26-55), even though soon her life (and the life of her son) would become at risk, totally turned upside-down by this “good news.” Still, she discovered a strength and a posture to help counter the fear. If our natural reaction when challenging circumstances arise is to pick up whatever “security blanket” we’re comfortable with, then I wonder: What might God be inviting us to with the words “Do not be afraid”?

In this season may we discover: the security of comfort in weakness, a Story reminding us that fear doesn’t have to overwhelm us, and a fresh glimpse of the One who said “remember, I am with you always.”

Good news…even if it’s just for a while, we can drop the blanket.

  1. alfred beilin permalink
    January 4, 2012 8:52 am

    if any ones here today hope yous had a nice xmas and heres to the new year
    alfred beilin

  2. January 9, 2012 9:01 pm

    and to you as well, alfred. thanks for reading!

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