Don’t be afraid

Botticelli Annunciation As part of our Christmas celebrations, the children put on a Nativity play during one of our services. This is the all-age  talk I gave as part of that service.The reading was Bob Hartman’s Angel Surprise from his book Telling the Gospel, which a couple of the teenagers read. It’s a very good retelling of the Annunciation (Luke 1:26-38), from the point of view of Gabriel.Hartman gospel

Nativity talk

Do you know what the most common command in the Bible is?
We heard it in today’s story? It’s “don’t be afraid”.

“Don’t be afraid”. That’s what the angels usually say when they appear. It’s what Gabriel said to Mary and it’s what the angels say to the shepherd. “Don’t be afraid”.

And of course they say it because a huge shining angel has just appeared. Perhaps not with wings, but still pretty scary. And they also say it because the rest of the message is pretty scary too.

I didn’t want to be a vicar. I wanted to be an archaeologist. My wife didn’t want me to be a vicar. But, I felt God calling me to become a vicar. I didn’t do what Mary did, though. I didn’t accept it straight away. I struggled for quite a long time before I gave in but, like Mary, I did eventually say “I’ll do it. I’ll be whatever God wants me to be.” And that’s not always been easy. It wasn’t easy for Mary. But, I am sure that it is what God wants me to be.

“I’ll do it” said Mary “I’ll be whatever God wants me to be.”

And because of Mary, because of Mary’s answer, Jesus was born. Because of Mary’s answer she saw amazing things. Because of Mary’s answer the whole of history was changed. Because of Mary’s answer we can come to God through Jesus. Because of Mary’s answer, over 2,000 years later, we celebrate the birth of a baby in a stable.

Mary said ‘yes’ to God. And God wants us to say yes to him too.

That won’t be as history-changing as Mary’s ‘yes’. But, it might be as life-changing. It might mean a major change of job, like it did for me. More likely, though, it means staying where you are and showing that you’ve said ‘yes’ to God in how you act, what you do, what you say. And that’s more scary in some ways.

Like Mary, that involves having people who already know you seeing that you’re acting in a different way, doing different things. Perhaps not doing the things that we’ve being doing before, perhaps not acting in the ways that we have been doing. That’s hard. But we’re not on our own. God is with us, God gives us his Holy Spirit to help us. And God gives us each other, to help and pray for one another as well. And perhaps we need to work out how we can do a bit more of helping each other to do that.

“I’ll do it” said Mary “I’ll be whatever God wants me to be.”

God has given us all skills and gifts and talents. And he wants us to make full use of them. He wants us to be the best possible versions of ourselves, to shine as lights in the world.

God tells us “Don’t be afraid”. God calls us to answer, like Mary, “I’ll do it. I’ll be whatever God wants me to be.”
And God helps us. God sends us his Holy Spirit, God gives us gifts and walks with us, helping us.

This isn’t just about Sundays or about Christmas, this is about all of our lives. This is about how we are at a Monday morning, a Friday night, a Saturday afternoon, wherever we are. Whether that’s at home, or at school, or at work, or with our friends and neighbours.

And that’s hard, and that’s why God tells us not to be afraid and why God will help us if we ask him.
God tells us “Don’t be afraid”. So, like Mary, let’s say “I’ll be whatever God wants me to be.”

Let’s pray: Father God, it’s easy to be afraid when you call us.
Like Mary, help us to be whatever you want us to be. Help us to know what that is, and send us your Holy Spirit to help us. Amen.

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