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Camille, David, and Azael as Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus, in the Children’s Christmas Pageant at First UMC Santa Barbara, December 2016 (Photo credit: Dallis Day Richardson)

An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said,
“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife,
for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.
She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus,
for he will save his people from their sins.” ~ Matthew 1:20-21

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God
to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin
engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David.
The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said,
“Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” … “Do not be afraid,
Mary, for you have found favor with God.” ~ Luke 1:26-28, 30

Fear must be released if we are to take the journey to Bethlehem.
Fear obstructs the dream of God for a world healed of divisions.
Fear confines us in boxes of propriety and principle.
Fear prevents us from daring to live fully for God.
Fear holds us back.

had he listened to his inner voice of moral rectitude,
rather than listening to the Spirit stir in his faith-filled dreaming,
might have chosen the lesser path,
the outwardly respectable path,
the easier, more bearable path.

had she listened to her inner voice of level-headed reason,
rather than listening to the angel’s announcement of God’s favor,
might have chosen the uncomplicated path,
the less perplexing, more normal path,
the expected path for a young woman of her day.

Instead these two faithful servants,
through the buoyancy of prayerful action,
put aside their fears
and embraced the possibility that God was doing something new!

From their beautifully inspired trust in God’s goodness
the holy child was born
and God’s salvation story took on human flesh,
so that we might see the fullness of grace and truth!

This Christmas
let us cast aside the fear of difference and change
and embrace the self-giving love of Emmanuel –
God who is with all of us the world over,
whatever our nationality, race, religion or creed.

God is with us!
Do not be afraid!

Words (c) 2016 Mark Lloyd Richardson