Do not be afraid!

May I take this opportunity of wishing you all a very blessed 2022, and I pray we can look towards it with hope as we put our trust once again in God. As we look back to 2021, there have again been many challenges that we have had to face, but there have also been some amazing achievements that we can be thankful for, such as the extraordinary vaccine programme, which has undoubtedly saved many lives; as well as the opportunity to gather back in person to worship together as one family here at St. Mark’s.

I am so grateful for the kindness and generosity that has been expressed in many ways over this past year, by so many people, loving one’s neighbour as God commanded; and this was the focus that I wrote about in my January blog 2021. My heart has been blessed as I have seen it worked out in word and action – thank you.

As I have been pondering and reflecting on this past year, and on the Christmas story, the words ‘Do not be afraid’ have been on my mind, and in my heart. I think there is still a lot of fear around, and that is not surprising. Fear still of the pandemic, and of it’s many consequences; fear of future employment, fear of redundancy, fear of future financial burdens as we look at huge increases in a our utility bills, and rise in inflation; fear for the NHS and for those who have other life threatening diseases apart from covid; fear for our children and lack of schooling, fear for our aged parents. Perhaps fear too for the future of the worldwide Anglican church with all of its complexities, fear for the local parish church, and fear even for some of our own ministries at St. Mark’s due to lack of human/financial resources; and fear as we begin to enlarge the site of our tent, including the faith building project, and extending ‘The Living Room’ into the Wrexham Road estate. Lastly, perhaps fear about our own Christian discipleship, and what might God be asking of us this coming year?

Fear of course comes into the Christmas story too. The Angel Gabriel said to Mary, ‘do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God’. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus’. An angel of the Lord said the to shepherds, ‘do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people, to you is born this day in the City of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord’. It appears that great news regarding Jesus can also cause great fear!

I am sure you are aware that the command ‘do not be afraid’ appears 365 times in the Bible. That’s a daily reminder from God to live everyday fearless rather than fearful – easier said than done – I agree! But I find it encouraging that God knows that we are fearful beings otherwise he would not say so often, ‘do not be afraid’.

So, the reality is that there will be times when we will face fear in this coming year, but how can we not be overwhelmed by this fear? Well John the Apostle says, in 1 John 4: 16 – 18,

So we have known and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them ……………there is no fear in love but perfect love (Jesus) casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because he first loved us’.

It is true that we probably have not reached perfection in love, because we are all on a journey, but that journey will be one of drawing closer to God each day, believing the love that God has for us, and desiring to abide and dwell in that love more and more, enabling us to love others as God loves us. Perfect love drives out all fear. Fear we know can be crippling, paralyzing, suffocating, causing us to be more drawn into ourselves, and allowing the darkness of the world to overwhelm us. But that is not the Christmas story – the Christmas story is about light, salvation, delight, freedom, hope, forgiveness, new life, and life in all its fullness!

We know that God has spoken to us, as a church, through Isaiah 54 verses 2 & 3, and it is interesting that verse 4 starts with the words, ‘do not fear’.

I am sure 2022 will be full of surprises for us all – some of those will challenge us, and some will delight us, but let’s not allow fear to stop us from hearing God’s word, and put the brakes on from ‘enlarging the site of our tent, for he says, ‘do not hold back, but lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes. For you will spread out to the right and to the left’.

I leave you with these words from Isaiah 41. V. 10 which I intend to hold on to as I travel with God into 2022, and pray that you too might find them re-assuring for the times that you may feel afraid.

New Year blessings


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