But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary…” (Luke 1.30)
Christmas can be a fearful time. Finances. Family tensions. Loneliness. Bereavement. The time of cheer can be the time of fear. And sometimes anxiety about what the future holds combines with the prospect of a difficult Christmas to reinforce our negative gut feelings about how things are going to turn out.
Sadly, Christmas as a time of fear is more prevalent than we might think.
Mary’s initial reaction to Gabriel was one of fear. We are not told why. It doesn’t seem to have been the sight of the angel himself. It appears to have something to do with the message he had come to bring. His introduction seems to have unnerved her. So before he reveals God’s plan to Mary, Gabriel first of all addresses her emotion: “Do not be afraid, Mary…”.
Notice that Gabriel deals with Mary’s fear before he reveals her future, not the other way around. Why? Perhaps because God wants to establish trust. Not a kind of trust that says “God is going to put me through something unpleasant, so I have to grit my teeth and rely on Him to get me through.” Not at all. Mary is about to hear good news.
When the future is uncertain, when we sense that the road ahead might work out a little bit rocky, we need to hear God’s word to Mary, as spoken by Gabriel: “Do not be afraid”. Do not be afraid because God can be trusted. Do not be afraid because His plans for you are good, however apparently bleak the Christmas ahead of you.