I find it intriguing that this is the first statement made when a human being has an interaction with the Divine in some form…whether it’s Abram (later to be Abraham) being told that he will become the father of many nations…Moses telling the people to watch God’s power at work…Daniel being visited by the Son of God…Joseph being told to go ahead and take Mary as his wife…the annunciation to Mary…Zechariah being told he will become the father of John the Baptist…the announcement to the shepherds of the birth of Jesus…Jesus calling fishermen to follow him…the women at the empty tomb…all of them situations when people were being called from “the usual” into something new.
Sometimes I think we have lost that sense of awe.
I’ve put out some of my nativities for this year (can’t get them all out this time!) and thinking about that earlier triggered this musing. In so many of them, the angels are beautiful figures–awe-inspiring, but not particularly frightening.
But I have a stand-alone angel that to me embodies the power behind the words “Fear not!” It’s a beautiful figure–but it’s also one I would fall down before if it was actually appearing before me in the flesh.
So how does this relate to what seems to be our modern thinking of God as friend?
I believe that’s true–believe that’s why Jesus came to earth as “God with flesh on” so that we could understand that there is a Living Presence who cares for us and who understands our lives.
But at the same time, I think it’s important for us to also understand that God as friend doesn’t mean the same kind of “buddy-buddy” relationship that we might have with our best friend here.
God’s friendship challenges us…because God knows our potential, knows who and what we can be–and really doesn’t want us to settle for anything less than that.
And God is more than we are. Friend, yes…Comforter, yes…but also Ongoing Creator whose creativity we are just beginning to understand–and realize how much we don’t know.
And so…while it’s important for us to see and sense God’s presence in all that is around us, it’s also important to open our ears to hear “Fear not!” …when God chooses to interact with us personally–to challenge us to move into something new.