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Do you ever fear personal failure? Have you ever been told that what you are doing is doomed to fail and that your failure means that you are a loser? The fear of failure and the accompanying shame and stigma is one of the most prevalent human fears. One of the consequences of feeling rejected or our fear of rejection can be loneliness. (Mark 2:1-12)
Today, we are going to think about groups of people that threaten our safety or that we are in some way afraid of. Fear of others can lead to hatred towards them, and hatred can lead us to do some terrible things. This morning’s scripture tells of the first Biblical story of violence and inhumanity towards a fellow human. (Genesis 4:1-9)
Our brains are made a certain way so that we can respond to threats. We call it the fight or flight response. And that is good when there really is a threat. But fear can also be felt about things that likely will never happen. Fear often manifests itself as anxiety and stress, which can in turn lead to heart problems. Fear can be behind depression and addiction and broken relationships. Fear can lead to prejudice and hatred and war. Scripture tells us “Do not fear.” (Numbers 13:1-2, 13:17-14:10)
Simeon has been waiting for a Savoir for a long time, and when Mary and Joseph bring Jesus to the Temple, and as he holds the baby, he sees something special there. The words Simeon uses to praise God, we know today as the Nunc Dimittis. In the original Greek, the song begins with an emphatic ‘now.’ (Luke 2:21-52)
The shepherds were visited by angels, with an amazing and holy message about the good and joyful news of our Savior’s birth and they responded by rising up and going to Bethlehem to see the newborn baby. Clearly something was happening, and the shepherds recognized this and responded. How are we going to respond to Christ this Christmas? Are we going to rise up & follow him? (Luke 2:1-20)
I wonder what it was like for Zechariah to be unable to speak for nine months. What must it have felt like? He has had plenty of time and solitude to contemplate. He has had gestational time. What has God birthed in him? Has his heart mended? Is his faith deeply restored? What renewal has he experienced? (Luke 1:57-80)
What do you do when you are overcome with joy? Jump up and down? Give a loud shriek? Hug someone? Clap enthusiastically? Have you ever burst into spontaneous song? (Luke 1:46-55)
When our lives enter uncharted territory, it is always good to have a mentor to go to; someone who is on a similar journey but ahead of us, who can give us some advice. Someone who can see things that we do not always notice ourselves. (Luke 1:39-45, 56)
An angel appears to Mary surprising her and disrupting her day. When God calls, sometimes, what you are asked to do is risky. Has God ever interrupted your day? An angel is a messenger of God. We have all heard tales of supernatural encounters. But sometimes, angels are real people, a stranger or a friend. God uses different ways to nudge us and bring about a holy disruption. (Luke 1:26-38)
The weeks leading up to Christmas are busy and noisy times. Every shop is playing Christmas carols in a continuous loop. Retailers are ramping up their advertisements enticing us to spend more and more. We are bombarded with invitations for Christmas concerts, plays, parties, dinners etc. and are calendars are over-full with clashing engagements. Our…