Shawn Branch
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“Fear not!” “Be not afraid!” Did you know that there are approximately 365 variations of the statement in scripture? It might seem as though there is a message of reassurance for each day of the year.

And yet, we live in a world of fear. All around us, news briefs highlight incidents of terror, fear, attacks, and violence. It is natural for us to be afraid. We fear for our safety, for the safety of those whom we love.

For some, violence is not a great fear. “Fear not!” David reminds us, in Psalm 56 – “I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me?” (vs 11). What can they do? Our natural-self responds, ‘lots’ – mere mortals can attack, hurt and damage my body, my ego, my spirit.

Jesus reminded the disciples not to fear, time and time again. “Don’t be troubled. You trust in God, now trust in me. There are many rooms in my Father’s home, and I am going to prepare a place for you.” (John 14:1-2)

There are some who suggest that our fears are connected to our self-esteem and how we view and understand our identity. I’ve often wondered if all of the problems of war, gangs, and terror are rooted in peoples’ desire to prove that they have value and worth. Many of us claim our identity and strength in what we can do, who we know or our position; when in reality, our true source of this is found in Christ.

Mary is a great model of humility and grace. Gabriel greets her saying, “Greetings, favoured woman! The Lord is with you! Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean.” (Luke 1:28-29) An angel appears before her and she tries to figure out how she is favoured in God’s eyes. Until this point, Mary likely did very little to demonstrate a life of any significance. God chose and found favour with her.

At His baptism, a voice from heaven is heard, as Jesus enters the waters, “You are beloved Son, and I am fully pleased with you.” (Luke 3:22)

Henri Nowen reminds us that God the Father looks at each of us and says, “I love you, because I love you, because I love you, because I love you.” As we enter into a new season, may we fully embrace the knowledge and truth of God’s love for you and me.

“’Don’t be afraid!’ [an angel] said. ‘I bring you good news of great joy for everyone! The Saviour – yes, the Messiah, the Lord – has been born tonight in Bethlehem, the city of David! … ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to all whom God favours.’” (Luke 2:10-14)

Yours in Christ,
Shawn C. Branch