Hope rather than fear – A Christmas message from Bishop Pat Storey

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‘Be not afraid’ is one of the most frequently used phrases in the Bible, and we read it again during our Advent and Christmas services. Yet I wonder in the last two years if we have paid any attention to this instruction? Our news channels and social media are alight with fear and trepidation, and we can feel dejected when we pay them too much attention.

I know that there are times when I have been afraid – of Covid, of another cancelled Christmas, of not seeing my son for another year. It is a natural human instinct to feel fear. What, then does it mean when we are told in our Christmas readings not to be afraid?

Fear is true darkness – anyone who has been crippled by fear will know this. When you are afraid, it is so difficult to see any hint of light. When Mary is told not to be afraid by the angel Gabriel, I imagine she found that difficult. Do we think of Mary as being a real person with authentic feelings? In which case, of course she was afraid! But Gabriel wants to reassure her – your God is in control. You may feel unnerved, apprehensive, and have no idea what the future holds, but God in Jesus has his finger on the pulse. We do not know the future- but He does, and He holds it in His hands.

When we are afraid, we are told not to be, because even though it is perfectly normal and human, it does not reflect the goodness, the nearness, and the faithfulness of God.

Be not afraid, this Christmas! May it be a celebration, even if smaller than usual and a little subdued. He knows the future.

Happy Christmas. May 2022 hold hope rather than fear,