Jesus said, "There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in a cloud' with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near." Luke 21: 27-28
There are any number of ways to define and describe fear. I used to be afraid of the dark when I was a kid. Adults in my life tried to assure me that what was there in the light was there in the dark, and there was nothing to fear...but my own imagination filled the gray, twilit shadows of my room with all manners of terrors. Fear was not in what was there, but in what my mind did to fill in the blanks, the corners, the shadows. I grew up to fear other things....conflict, because I feared pain and discomfort; defeat...because I feared not being able to rise again; intimacy...because it meant being vulnerable; vulnerability...because it meant giving up control; control...because it meant being responsible for the outcome of things; being responsible...because it meant conflict.
You get the idea.
Don't forget fear of losing people you know and love to threat, violence, terror, sorrow, sickness and death. Add in the realization in mid life that life itself is finite...and so a fear of death (really, oblivion) is there.
All those fears take root in us when we lose touch with the deepest tap roots that feed our being in this life: faith, love and hope.
Advent, in the Church's liturgical calendar, is the first of seasons. It prepares us for the coming of the Christ. It is a season for coming to terms with our fears, our dread, our despairs even as we recommit to faith, life and hope in God's abject and eternal care for us.
There is a lot to be afraid of nowadays. Some of that impulse to fear is in our control. We can choose to reject fear/hate/anger when terror is thrust upon us. Bombs can't end faith, love and hope unless to let them. They may take our lives, but they cannot end a life that is eternal in Christ's resurrection. We can fear alarms, wars, economic crises, natural disasters and more...but the truth is that most of those global, seismic events are often out of our control. What we do control is our collective and individual reactions to those disasters. Jesus is clear in his direction....we are to "stand up and raise [our] heads, because [our] redemption is drawing near."
That translates not just into a framework of response in the face of crisis. Please remember that truth: it also means something to us in our day to day lives.
We are to live as a people of faith, hope and love. We are to practice peace, trust and forbearance. We are to be the first to extend mercy, to offer shelter to those in need, to care for and befriend the poor and displaced. We are to embrace the call to overcome fear with faith, hate with love and despair with hope.
It's not a gift to be able to live that way....it's a practice.
Please take time to remember in this season of Advent, this season of waiting on God's arrival in our midst, that we are not comfortless. We are not alone. We are not done. We are only preparing for beginnings. Always.