“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be good for all the people.” Luke 2:10
That phrase is used often in the Bible – “Do not be afraid.” In Chapters 1 and 2 of Luke it is used three times, once with shepherds, once with Zecharias, and once with Mary, each at the outset of an angelic appearance. It is understandable that being confronted by an angel might be alarming, and thus the “Do not be afraid” introduction makes sense, but then any indication of divine presence, from the gentle tug of a “still, small voice” to an angel appearing, can be startling. In The Jesuit Guide To Almost Everything James Martin notes that “an indication that God is close to you can be alarming,” but goes one step further, noting: “Religious experiences are often dismissed – not out of doubt that they aren’t real, but out of fear that they are real after all.”
That rings true to me – here’s the pattern. After being startled, after the nudge, some form of reason kicks in, and I start to see that this realization, this awakening, is going to put me on a different path, and that if I listen and respond, things are going to be different. Once that fear takes over, well, I can “but” God out of the way and that gentle tug (I have no experience with angels appearing) can get lost in the jostling of life.
“Do not be afraid,” or hell, just be less afraid.