Fifteen years ago, I was living in Northern Ireland when I received a phone call from my mom in the US telling me to turn on my TV. I tuned in just in time to see the 2nd plane hit the 2nd tower of the World Trade Center. Within a minute, the phone line went dead, and we were all afraid.
It wasn't the first time we've been afraid. Who can forget the World Wars, the Cold War, the rise in crime in the 70's, Y2K, and the new age of terrorism. Today, our culture demands we be afraid. The media feeds it to us continuously, and we consume it. Fear is prevalent, and the prophets of doom are getting rich.
"Perfect love casts out fear."
Fear is nothing new. It's always been a part of the human story, and it certainly was at the time Mary and Joseph were traveling to Bethlehem. Jesus was born into a hostile world and in a nation under occupation by a foreign invader. He was delivered away from his home and in impoverished conditions. And let's not forget that shortly after his birth, he and his parents had to flee to Egypt to avoid Herod's death sentence for all Hebrew male children under two years old.
Can you imagine their fears? How am I supposed to raise the Son of God? How am I going to keep him safe? And what about Joseph? How am I going to provide? I am the step-father of a boy who is going to grow up thinking his biological Father is God!
To assuage their fears, God spoke to Mary & Joseph and gave them the faith to trust him. Their faith was a gift; it's not something we can produce ourselves. It's what God produces in us as we trust him.
Fear is going to be part of our life, but we have to resist being fear-filled. Mary and Joseph heard from God's messenger, and so have we. "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God" (Romans 10:17). The Word of God builds our faith and proves God's trustworthiness to us.
That we can even have faith in this fearful and dark world is a miracle.
It is a gift.