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Why Christians are choosing to “Fear Not” this Advent

I grew up in a tradition where Advent wasn’t really a thing. Sure, we had our pseudo-baptist liturgical rhythms, but for me Christmas was a season of energy, excitement and enthusiasm – not quiet reflection.

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But over the last few years, I’ve developed a profound appreciation for this season.

Taken from the Latin word adventus – which literally means “coming” – Advent is a season where Christians symbolically await Jesus’ coming. It’s a focused time of waiting and expectation, that creates space for us to anticipate and receive again the announcement of Jesus’ birth – ‘God with us’.

This idea of creating space is counter-cultural. When our lives are so busy, when the public narratives are so divisive, and when the fear of others is so strong, creating space challenges our instinct to retreat into safe echo chambers to the exclusion of our neighbours.

For the past few years, we at Common Grace have found the Advent season provides a wonderful opportunity for this counter-cultural creation of space.

Advent has provided us with space to embrace those whom we may initially fear as family, and to listen to and learn from people who are different to us.

Advent has provided us with space to embrace those whom we may initially fear as family, and to listen to and learn from people who are different to us.

It has also provided us with space to reflect and acknowledge our fears. Like the fear of taking the kind of action required to become peacemakers in the world. And perhaps even our fear of embracing the freedom Jesus has given us to fear not.

“Fear not” is a familiar phrase in the Christmas stories of the Bible. As people found themselves part of the coming of Christ, time and again they were exhorted not to be afraid.

Zechariah was overwhelmed with fear when he encountered an angel who gave him the news that God had heard his prayers. Mary was confused and disturbed when the angel Gabriel declared that she was favoured and loved by God and would play a central role in the coming of Christ. Joseph was afraid to follow through with his engagement to Mary after learning that she was pregnant. The shepherds were terrified when they came face to face with angels celebrating the birth of Jesus.

Each encountered fear as they came face to face with God. Yet each were called beyond their fear to embrace the good news of hope, joy, healing and peace.

As followers of Jesus, we too are invited to move beyond our fear and accept Jesus’ invitation into love and freedom.

As followers of Jesus, we too are invited to move beyond our fear and accept Jesus’ invitation into love and freedom.

God’s love is radical and gracious. It is a love that banishes fear of judgement. Though we live in a world in which fear is at the heart of division and exclusion, as we reflect on Jesus’ call to move beyond fear, we are reminded not only of the love we encounter personally, but also of love as a driving force for good in the world.

For advent this year, we are preparing daily devotional emails for the Common Grace community. They’re written by a diverse range of Christians with different stories, backgrounds and perspectives. Yet they call readers to find common ground in the invitation to ‘Fear not’ and instead experience God’s love for all people.

Consider yourself also invited to journey with us this advent and to fear not.

If you’d like to sign up for Common Grace’s Advent devotional series, you can do so here.

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