365 Days (A Tale of Three Sermons)

I haven’t written here in days, mainly because I’ve either been too busy or too tired, or both. So, indulge me, if you will, in a Christmas wrap-up.

Christmas Eve found Fuzzy and me driving to church a lot. First, we went to our own UU church for a vesper service. We’re both in the choir, when time permits, and while our numbers were small that night, visiting friends helped improve our sound, and the evening was both cozy and contemplative. The minister at Oak Cliff UU often begins his welcome speeches with the acknowledgment that there is often fear and trepidation in visiting a new church, and especially in casting off the trappings of other religious styles in favor of a new one. Whether you’re coming from high church to a more congregational version, or going the other way, I think that’s equally valid.

We lingered for a while, eating far too much sugar, after the service was over, and then several of us began a trek across town – across two or three towns, really, to attend a carol service and midnight mass at one of the local Episcopal churches.

On the way, even though we were in different cars, several of us were listening to a Christmas eve service broadcast on the radio from some Presbyterian church. While I felt that that minister was in strong need of an editor, something that he said struck me and hasn’t left me since. He mentioned that there were 365 separate instances in the Bible of people being told “Don’t be afraid.” It’s not always phrased the same way, but the sentiment repeats, “once for each day of the year.”

Somehow that flowed into the homily at the Episcopal church. The rector there is a woman with a delicate voice that belies her strong convictions, and I thought it was interesting hearing the birth of Jesus story from a mother’s perspective. She reminded us that while the stories we hear are generally sanitized, childbirth is messy, especially if you’re doing it in a barn.

All three homilies we heard that night were vastly different, and yet, all had something more in common than the celebration of Christmas. All encouraged us to acknowledge fear, to work through it, to move forward, and to go out into the world with light and love.

As for me, when I hear or read the the words “Be not afraid,” or “fear not” I don’t take it as a literal warning to quell fear, but to accept that fear is a valid response as long as we don’t let it cripple us.

My friend Deb wrote about the way fear cripples her as a writer, at times, and I know it sometimes does the same to me, so on this night, I’m making a pact with myself, and with Deb, to write something for myself every day.

Even if it’s scary.