Opening Prayer. God, open us to be a people who take the risk to encounter you in difference and in was and through messengers who are unexpected. Amen.
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus.
– Luke 1:26-31
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.
– Luke 2:8-11
“Do Not Be Afraid.” From Mary Fisher
Sometimes being scary gets old. Every time an angel like me appears to a human, the first thing we have to say is, “Do not be afraid.” It’s futile, really. They’re terrified every single time.
It’s understandable, I suppose. After all, we are messengers of God. The King of the Universe. The One who was, and is, and is to come. God is awe-ful and awe-inspiring all on his own, without any help from angels. And you never know what his message will be. Sometimes, it asks a lot – like when I visited Mary. And once, it announced to the shepherds the best news the world has ever known.
But part of it is just because I’m an angel, not a person. I’m so different from the creatures I’m visiting. Why is it that humans so often fear anyone who’s not like them? Whether they’re experiences or expectations, worldview or wealth, skin color or social standing, people seem not to trust what they don’t know first-hand. Or maybe they fear that if the other is valued, their own worth is threatened when the truth is that every one of us is equally beloved in God’s eyes – no one loved and valued more, no one less.
Encountering the other – someone who is different – can bring a depth and richness to life that is hard to come by any other way. Lives can expand, minds can learn and hearts can grow by experiencing the diversity of the pinnacle of God’s creation – people. Yes, it’s a risk. I took a risk when I visited Mary and the shepherds. They could have ignored me or been too terrified to move. But they didn’t. They listened and acted on what they heard. Their lives – and the whole world – have never been the same.
Questions for Consideration.
Closing Prayer. Oh Lord, help us to see the other as an invitation from you, rather than a threat. Invite us to seek and to learn from those who are different. Help us truly understand that we are all your beloved children. Amen.