Settle in to your quiet space with several deep, slow breaths. Light a candle (or three) if you wish.
Breathe in: I will trust
Breathe out: and not be afraid
- Zephaniah 3:14-20 The king of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall fear disaster no more. On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands grow weak. (Zeph. 3:15b-16)
- Isaiah 12:2-6 Surely God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid, for the Lord God is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation. (Is. 12:2)
- Philippians 4:4-7 Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Phil. 4:6)
- Luke 3:7-18 “His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear the threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” So, with many other exhortations, [John] proclaimed the good news to the people. (Luke 3:17-18)
Link to complete readings for Advent Week 3.
“Be not afraid.”
Every time I read that phrase in the scriptures (which is often—it’s in the Bible a lot) I wish I responded with an emphatic inner YES… but instead my gut reaction is more often a hearty YEAH, RIGHT.
What am I afraid of? The state of the world and of the nation and of the church and of my family and, let’s be honest, of my own soul. I’m afraid of the future, all the looming question marks that remain unanswered, and all the blanks that I will eventually have to fill in. I’m afraid of doing the wrong things, and of not doing the things I should. I’m afraid that if everything goes wrong it’ll all be my fault. I’m afraid of looking stupid. I’m more afraid of being stupid.
I’m mostly afraid of letting all the stuff in my head lead me to behaviors that will damage my relationships, my future, my witness, and, let’s be honest, my soul. I’m most afraid I may let the fears in my head become more real to me than the fears many people live with every day: fears for their safety, fears for their very lives.
So the Bible says, God says, Jesus says, prophets and angels and apostles say: Be not afraid.
And maybe YEAH, RIGHT isn’t such an awful response. It’s at least an honest one. YEAH, RIGHT practices no denial, wears no rose-colored specs. YEAH, RIGHT recognizes that some things are legitimately scary, and that sometimes fearfulness is absolutely logical (if not necessary!).
How does a creative maker live and work with the YEAH, RIGHT? Amid the “fear not, worry not” texts of this week’s lectionary, there’s the gospel of Luke, and the story of John the baptizer, streetcorner preaching and wilderness living and preparing the way of the Lord. This scripture almost makes me laugh out loud: John is all hellfire and brimstone, winnowing forks and burning up the chaff… and Luke says, “John proclaimed the good news.” This is Good News?! And I wonder: is this how artists face fear? By seeing through hellfire to find good?
This week, consider how you practice being fearless as you anticipate the Advent—the coming—of Jesus.
How to makers and crafters practice fearlessness in their work?
- They don’t deny or avoid fear; they face it. They tackle the impossible subject matter, the untried medium. They welcome the absurd outcome.
- They see fear for what it is, and they see what it can become. They see what waits on the other side.
- They invite fear in, then they use it. They work with fear to tell truths.
- In their work, in painting and sculpture and poem and story, they teach us how to face fear too.
We don’t typically think of “fear” as being part of the Christmas season, but it is a necessary part of the Advent. Pregnancy is scary even now—it’s impossible to imagine how dangerous even a “normal, healthy” pregnancy was 2000 years ago. (Not to mention an unmarried pregnancy and an angelic messenger and you have to roadtrip on a donkey and there’s no room in the inn.) The coming of God to the world is scary; the kingdom promise of justice should be scary to a lot of us… just ask John. God doing a new thing is almost always scary, even when we can see that it’s really “good news.”
Take a few minutes to explore your space and select an item or two that represent “being fearless.” Bring these items to your sacred space. Some ideas:
- A tool you don’t know how to use; a color you don’t know how to work with; a photo, clipping, or note suggesting a theme/topic you’ve been avoiding.
- A newspaper clipping that is, on the surface, “bad news.”
- Write down a truth you’ve learned from facing a fear.
- An artwork that has encouraged you or helped you feel equipped to face fear.
In the week ahead, reflect on these items and how they represent being fearless: How are you being fearless in your work toward the fulfillment of God’s kingdom?
Can you sit with the YEAH, RIGHT and make room for a NOW WHAT? Can you see the possibility of good news? Can you let your inner fears make you less defensive and more connective—more compassionate for those who face external fears every day of their lives?
Maker of the Universe,
in this season of Be Not Afraid
—this pandemic season, this bad news season—
show me again
how You are guiding me
to face fearful things with a vision
that seeks the good You are calling
me to share.
Let me not deny, ignore, or avoid fear—my own,
or (especially) anyone else’s. Let me practice compassion for us all.
Let me not imagine my fears are more real than the fears of those
whose suffering I never have to see. Let me see. Let me look with eyes open
to the truths I need to accept.
Let me never be afraid to learn about things
that others must learn to live with.
And let me do the hard work of believing—despite all appearances—
in Good News.
In this season of uncertainty, O God,
teach me how
—by the discipline of being fearless—
even I can join You
in making things new.