Did you realize that the words “Don’t be afraid” are at the heart of the Christmas story? Mary is greatly troubled when the angel appears because she wonders what all this will mean. The angel says “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.”
Joseph also has to face the reality of the stigma in which he is implicated with the added personal betrayal which comes from knowing his wife-to-be is going to have a baby by someone else. The angel visits him in a dream to say “Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife.”
The shepherds, living out on the hills outside Bethlehem, were considered like the scum of the earth and were hated and distrusted by respectable people. But they are the first to hear from the angels that a special child has been born. They are terrified when the angel appears. They are told, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”
All of us have many things that we can worry about—whether its money, work, family or tricky relationships. Is it a sin to be afraid and be fearful? We cover these attitudes with euphemisms, like “being concerned,” “anxious,” “troubled,” and “scared.” I like the phrase “being concerned.”
So what “concerns” us as missionaries about life in Guatemala?
I’m concerned when we drive in the incredibly chaotic traffic in Guatemala City. I pray each time Ann drives across town to the seminary. And then, give a sigh of relief when she returns safely. Pray for protection as we drive in traffic.
Violence in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador has increased. Gang warfare combined with the drug trade has affected the population. Pray that the Holy Spirit will curb this violence.
Ann has high blood pressure which has affected her heart. Also, an infection of the kidneys has bothered her for almost three years. Pray for her health.
Our mission had to reduce our salary almost in half. We have had several long-standing supporters (individuals and churches) drop because of financial stress or health/age issues. One long standing supporting church will reduce their support by half for 2019 and then cease giving beyond. Pray for more partners in ministry!
By mid 2019 our mission will merge with AVANT (Gospel Missionary Union) ministries. The combined organization will have more than 500 members serving in more than 50 countries. Yet, change can produce anxiety of the unknown. Pray for a smooth transition.
The Christmas story is no sentimental fairy tale. Hope is born—but it comes in the midst of scandal, stigma, and real fear. This is what gives Christian hope its power to redeem and reconcile the most difficult of situations and the most broken of lives. God was born into straw poverty, in a world of fear and violence, yet overcame them with His love.
It’s a message so relevant for today. In a world of fear, love wins.