Meeting Matthew Again...Anew
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him. Matthew 2:1-3
What are you afraid of?
Perhaps your first thought is to puff out your chest and think, "Nothing."
Or maybe that still small voice with whispers, "Death."
Or maybe that still smaller voice more vulnerably and honestly says almost unheard, "Not being love or accepted or knowing what to do."
Or maybe like Charlie Brown when Lucy says, "Maybe you have Panophobia or the fear of everything." To which Charlie says, "That's it!!!" Knocking Lucy over with his enthusiastic excitement.
Fear hovers and hangs around us.
This has been true for most of my ministry which began right after September 11th. Yet, I also know fear has been around for longer than that. Ask kids who ducked under their desks during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Ask kids who grew up with fathers going off to fight World War two...before that World War one...before that a world where vaccination was even available. Life has risks. With risks comes the fear that things might now work out right...and stories proofing that is the case.
Fear is an emotion in our lives.
But to say that we could ever confine or contain fear might not be the point. As a matter of fact, fear can awaken some of our creativity...that is why people cram for tests or stay up all night writing term papers. Fear can motivate. But fear can paralyze. Fear is a bit like playing with fire. Fire can keep you warm or burn down a house. Rain can water the ground or wash away your home, destroying it. Perhaps now you feel like Charlie Brown and wonder if you too have panophobia.
Beside the brokenness is beauty.
The irony in this story is what awakens fear is a baby/toddler (Matthew doesn't tell us Jesus' age and some suggest it might have taken a year for the Magi to arrive). A toddler? While, looking back there is a reason it was called, "the terrible twos!"
The beauty of God coming as a baby...but even that event brings disruption and awakens fear.
For me, the point isn't always to alleviate all fear - I don't know if that is possible. But to understand why I am feeling fear. Am I afraid no one will like this blog post? Am I afraid of being misunderstood or misquoted? Am I afraid no one will even read this so perhaps it doesn't even matter? The more you get acquainted with fear, the more it ceases to consume us. To be sure, it is still there. Which might be okay, especially if you see a bear or come across a snake or get behind the wheel of a car or try talking to someone...especially if you don't agree on politics or religion. The fear says, "Something might go wrong!" But, to constantly let fear have the final words or pick the radio station of your life won't get us very far.
As a matter of fact...Herod's fear will cause Mary and Joseph to flee to Egypt for fear that he will kill Jesus. Fear is like a virus that is so easily transmitted and translated. Fear is like an illness and the vaccine is for us to honestly name that, "Yes, this fear is real, but it isn't the only reality either."
So may you have the Mary-like courage to face the fear in this world. May you have the Joseph like conviction that the Herod's of today don't have a monopoly on the truth. May you sense more than a trace of God's grace...and may you share that with others.