I had the privilege on Saturday to speak to the ladies of Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan at their annual Advent Brunch. What a wonderful morning we had! The ladies had decorated the hall for Christmas with each table beautifully set to welcome the women who gathered there. The men of the church treated us like royalty as they served our meal. There was Christmas music and good food and lots of new friends to meet. I love events like these that come early in December. They help me slow down and focus on celebrating Christ’s birth instead of racing around with a mile-long to-do list in my hand.
As I thought about what I wanted to share with the ladies, the angels in the Christmas story came to mind. One of them appeared to Mary in Nazareth to announce God’s plan for her to give birth to His Son. The angel’s message began with the words “Do not be afraid.” Another angel spoke to Joseph in a dream when he learned of Mary’s pregnancy, and once again his message began with “Do not be afraid.” A third angel appeared to the shepherds to announce Christ’s birth, and he also began his message with “Do not be afraid.” Angels must be awesome beings indeed, to spark fear each time they appear!
But I think it’s more than that. Mary and Joseph had all their plans in place. They were going to be married soon, and they probably envisioned a future much like that of other young couples in the village of Nazareth, with work and children and a new home. Then an angel appeared to announce that God was about to turn their orderly lives upside down, bringing a baby before they had a chance to marry—a baby who was the Son of God and heir to Israel’s throne. Were they willing to give up their dreams and let God’s plans go forward? The angel said, “Do not be afraid.” Trust God. Trust that He is working for good. Trust that events are taking place in the spiritual realm that they couldn’t see. Trust God, even though everything in their life is about to change. Mary’s response to the angel and to God was, “I am the Lord’s servant.”
Most of us have made a lot of plans for the future. Our calendar pages are filled with programs and events and travel arrangements. But change can come unexpectedly. Accidents, illnesses, job losses, financial problems, relationship problems—these don’t stop so we can celebrate a “magical” Christmas holiday. If only an angel would appear to us whenever our lives are turned upside down and comfort us by saying, “Don’t be afraid! Trust God! He is in control and He is working for our good.”
I’m guessing that most of us have recently experienced some sort of unwelcome change. (If you haven’t, you’re probably about to!) Whether we like it or not, change is part of life. Before we start to panic and fret and worry, what if we took a moment to listen for the angel’s message from our Heavenly Father. It’s the same one that Mary and Joseph heard: “Don’t be afraid. Trust God in this. He is in control.”
When change comes, will we wrestle and worry and try to get our own plans back on track? Or will we put our hand in God’s and say, like Mary did, “I am the Lord’s servant.”