Last night I delivered a short homily to my college’s choir before our first performance of the annual Christmas festival. This is the full transcript of that.
The Lord be with you! Therefore: let us not fear — that’s this year’s theme, right? Fear not. Easy.
Personally, when someone tells me not to be afraid, I admit it’s not actually very helpful. It feels almost dismissive, like they’re unwilling to take my fear seriously. I am afraid of a lot of things — spiders, dead things, peanut products — or on a more serious note, I am afraid of failure… of loneliness… of my uncertain future.
Some fears keep us alive. Some fears keep us from living.
We’re all deeply afraid of something, so “fear not” can sound like an impossible task — as if it’s some sort of rule we’re expected to follow. And as someone who suffers from anxiety, I tend to think this way a lot. But sometimes we need to be reminded that these are words of comfort.
This is God’s promise to us:
When you walk through the waters, I’ll be with you;
you will never sink beneath the waves.
When the fire is burning all around you,
you will never be consumed by the flames.
When the fear of loneliness is looming,
then remember I am at your side.
When you dwell in the exile of a stranger,
remember you are precious in My eyes.
(Excerpted from Philip Stopford’s “Do Not Be Afraid”)
It’s not a matter of if we face fear, but when. And when that time comes, how will we respond? It’s unrealistic to assume we can will our fear away — in fact, I think that’s dishonest.
Rather, “fear not” isn’t the end of it. Listen to the words of Joshua 1:9…
I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for YHWH your God is with you wherever you go.
“Fear not, for I am with you”. Therefore, be bold.
All of us are afraid of something, whether it’s of making a huge, life-changing decision, or of coming in fortissimo on page 2 of Virga Jesse. But I encourage you not simply to “fear not”, but to own that fear. Face it head-on, for you are not alone. God is with you and for you. All of us are with you and for you. Be strong and courageous — so boldly we pray:
O branch of Jesse, You have blossomed in fullness of both divinity and humanity, restoring peace and reconciling in Yourself the lowest with the highest.
Tonight, as we rejoice and sing on behalf of Your people, remind us that You are with us wherever we go, whether in the valley of the shadow of death, or in the candlelit glow of a Presbyterian church.
Lord, help us to not be afraid; help us to be bold,
for You have redeemed us,
You have called us by our names.
We are Yours,
we are Yours,
we are Yours.