Fear not. How vulnerable we sometimes feel, wondering how long our job is secure or our retirement savings will last.
Fear not. How anxious we get, reading about unexpected health scares, terrorist threats, tornados, or automobile accidents. It could happen to us!
Fear not. How frightened we can be, worried about the safety of our sons and daughters (One of my daughters is doing relief and development work in southern Sudan and another daughter drives all over two states introducing educational materials to school systems. So I do confess to worrying.)
Fear not. Mary must have felt incredibly vulnerable upon learning that she was pregnant. "Mary, you have nothing to fear; God has a surprise for you!"
Fear not. Think how anxious Mary and Joseph must have been when they were turned away at the inn - temporarily homeless, just when she was about to give birth.
Fear not. Joseph and Mary must have been terrified as they fled for safety in Egypt to save their new baby boy from murder by the hands of power.
Fear not. Parents around the world fear for their children's safety when hit by natural disaster, war or famine. Many flee their homes, just as the Holy Family fled, and spend an average of 10 years in refugee camps, often in terrible conditions. Fear not.
My old concordance tells me that the word "afraid" appears in the Bible more than 150 times. I looked further, and found the words "hate/hatred/hates/hated" used almost as often.
But, good news, the word "joy" appears in the Bible more than 150 times and the words "love/loved/loves" are found more than 600 times. God is good, all the time!
To the shepherds: "Do not be afraid. I am here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everyone, worldwide."
To Peter: "Have courage, it's me; do not be afraid." To the disciples: "There is nothing to fear. From now on you'll be fishing for men and for women."
To those today who teach children and encourage our youth: "Do not be afraid. Let the children come unto me. Do not give up. In as much as you have done it unto the least of these . ."
To the early missionaries in far off lands, as well as our 136 global missionaries today and our mission partners in more than 80 countries: "Do not be afraid. I have given you meaningful work. Fear not, trust, open your Bibles and your minds. Start a school or church. Reach out, help others, support one another. Share the healing love of Christ. Build a new world."
To those who love the UCC: "Fear not, God has a surprise for you. God is calling you into a new future, very different from the comforts of today, and God will provide the resources for the journey."
To those who work for peace with justice, to those yearning for true global community: "Do not be afraid. I am here to announce a great and joyful event for everyone, everywhere." "Good news of great joy!" "For God so loves the world!" And, finally, "Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia!"
Fear not. God is still speaking,
The Rev. Cally Rogers-Witte is executive minister of Wider Church Ministries and a member of the UCC's five-person Collegium of Officers.