“Fear not” is one of the primary messages from the angels.
Illustration: Fearful as a little girl
- When I was a little girl, I was a fearful girl
- I was a synchronized swimmer
- One of the most horrifying stunts was called the “chain dolphin”
- It’s a move where 10 girls float on their backs in the deep end water, forming one big long line
- You’re to latch your feet around the neck of the person behind you
- The lead person starts to skull through the water to move the line along
- Then, at a given moment, decides to dive under water, beginning the chain of everyone getting their head yanked under the water
- One by one you get pulled under water, facing the bottom of the pool, and wondering when you would come up for air…
- I was not graceful when I came out of the water
- I was so scared of this stunt, I could never complete one Chain Dolphin stunt.
- I would always pull the feet off my neck and swim away.
That situation caused me fear for two reasons:
- I had no control over the situation
- I had to wait to get what I wanted (oxygen)
These two things are a microcosm of life, aren’t they? We can’t control everything, and we have to wait.
Fear breeds in us the desire to take control of me.
Illustration: Why do you think the parent puts their foot on the “imaginary break” on their side of the car when teaching a teen to drive?”
“Fear breeds control. People who live in fear, rather than in trust, feel compelled to remain in control.”
- David Benner
I experienced fear as a synchronized swimmer and that is why I tried to gain control. I ruined everything in the process.
The more we feel fear, the tighter the grip goes on our own life. And it doesn’t end up well.
This brings us to the story of Mary, Jesus’ mother. We have to understand that she must have felt fear. And when faced with this fear, she had the same two choices and she could either trust God or try to take control of the situation herself.
Luke 1:26-37 – Mary’s Story
A young girl (12, 13, or 14) who is in the engagement period as we know it.
Get it straight: Mary wasn’t an old woman with a halo. She was a young teen. (Luke 1:27b) There wasn’t anything remarkable about Mary, she was a regular peasant girl.
Mary’s family was a part of poor Jews with little or no resources. Nobody would have ever spoken to her in this way (Luke 1:28-29). She must have been skeptical about this greeting because it was not what she was used to hearing. Kinda like those times when your kid comes to you with a very nice respectful voice, giving you a compliment. You’re skeptical and wonder what they want…
Mary knew that this angel was now speaking “Messiah language” to her. (Luke 1:30-33). Mary knew what the angel was talking about.
2 Samuel 7:12-14a
Although she knows what the angel was talking about, she replied with a question (Luke 1:34)
Even though the religious teachers didn’t come often to Nazareth, stories were common in her community and she had a framework to trust in God. (Luke 1:35-37). Still, it had been 450 years of silence from God.
Understand what must have been going on in Mary’s mind. There were all the stories of God’s faithfulness in the past. On the other hand, if she said “yes” then she would be a poor, pregnant, teenage girl. She would have to put at risk her future, finances, reputation, family, really her whole life!
What would you have done in this situation?
Mary surrendered the outcome to God. (Luke 1:38) “And the rest is history.”
When we think of Mary, we think of her as tender, sweet, and gentle as she surrendered to God’s desires. Maybe she was. But the problem is if we attribute those qualities to surrender, as if a wimpy person surrenders.
Mary is not a wimp!
Understand that Mary prophesied that through her son, God was going to raise up the weak and powerless. In her song, she sang about political overthrow.
Surrendering to God isn’t for the weak or the one who has no other choice.
Surrender is what makes a person strong.
“Surrender is the glad and voluntary acknowledgement that there is a God and it is not me. In surrender, I let go of trying to control all the outcomes in my life. I take myself out of the center of the universe and place God there. I yield to him. I do what he says. I remove myself from the driver’s seat. I hand over control to Him.”
- John Ortberg
The truth is, when we read the story about Mary, this was her battle! And, if you’re honest, it’s the battle you’re in as well. The battle of fear breeding the desire to seize control in your life.
Fear has the tendency to push us away from trust and toward the white-knuckled grip of control.
Can you imagine how much energy is wasted in our world over controlling things that cannot be controlled?
Back to the Chain Dolphin story, I tried to control everything.
But Mary did not strive to control everything. Why?
The key to Mary’s courage may be found in the end of my Chained Dolphin story. I was in agony over the whole thing. My mom came out of the bleachers and got into the water, fully clothed! She swam out to me and said to hang on and that I had the breath to do it and power to do it. That comforted me! Knowing that mom was in the water brought comfort and I knew she was with me. I did the Chained Dolphin over and over and over again.
This reminds me of Mary. When the first angel greeted her, he said five critical words: “The Lord is with you.”
Mary knew that the God of her ancestors was with them and kept his promises. Maybe they weren’t safe in the world’s eyes, but they were safe in the eyes of the kingdom. Nothing could ever separate them from God.
If God is with you and God is for you, then what do you have to fear?
As we start through this Advent season, remember this: Jesus got down with us and all of humanity. He came right down to where we live and he said, “I am right here, trust me.”
God was with Mary and now God is with us through Jesus and we don’t have to be afraid.
Maybe you’re fearful of death. Or the finances. Or your family is falling a part. Or you’re spending the first Christmas without a loved one. Or you’re lonely. Maybe you’re just fearful to accept God’s love and grace. Whatever it is that you are fearful of, at Christmas and through Jesus, God is saying to humans that in the end everything will be all right.
God is saying in Jesus that in the end everything will be all right. Nothing can harm you permanently, no suffering is irrevocable, no loss is lasting, no defeat is more than transitory, no disappointment is conclusive. Jesus did not deny the reality of suffering, discouragement, disappointment, frustration and death; he simply stated that the Kingdom of God would conquer all of these horrors, that the Father’s love is so prodigal that no evil could possibly resist it.”
- Brennan Manning