Advent 4: Do Not Be Afraid
By Jennifer Reyes Lay
“Do not be afraid… for nothing will be impossible with God.” (Luke 1:30-37)
Our Gospel reading today is a familiar story; the angel Gabriel comes to Mary to announce that she will birth God’s very son into the world. Traditional interpretations focus on Mary’s “Yes” to God, as an example of how we are called to faithfully respond to the work that God calls us to in the world. This is an important part of the Scripture passage, but I think equally important is Mary’s first reaction: she is perplexed and afraid.
There are many realities in our world today that leave us perplexed and afraid. It seems like every week, if not every day, there is news about another mass shooting, or an unarmed black person killed by law enforcement, or a family separated through deportation, or a woman bravely coming forward to share how she too has been the victim of sexual assault. How can there continue to exist such injustice, hatred, violence, oppression, and suffering?
But like the angel Gabriel, there are also angels in our midst who remind us that God has a plan for bringing life into the world, bringing hope into the world, bringing love into the world where it seems least likely and possible. The Good News that Mary receives in her fear and confusion is that nothing is impossible with God. We can be afraid, and we can be confused about the logistics of how it’s all going to work out, and like Mary we can still say “yes” to God’s plan.
It can be scary to stand up to racial injustice. It can be confusing and disconcerting to recognize the ways that we have been, and perhaps still are, complicit in maintaining systems of white supremacy. But I believe in and see God creating a way out of no way in our cities and country today through movements like Black Lives Matter, the indigenous water protectors, and DACA/Dreamer Defenders. There are real risks associated with joining the work for racial justice and challenging white supremacy, some greater than others. But the Good News of the Gospel story today invites us to have faith bigger than our fear. We do not need to know how it’s all going to work out. We can trust, and say yes to the call to join in the redemptive work already happing in our midst.
Action: Take some time in prayer to reflect on how fear keeps you from speaking and acting against racial injustice. Ask God for the courage to say yes in spite of those fears, and challenge yourself to begin with one action that seems scary. Possible ideas include: interrupting racist statements or jokes, joining a protest or direct action, engaging in tough conversations with friends or family, making a new friend with someone of a different racial identity, or divesting from institutions that support structural oppression.
Jennifer Reyes Lay lives in St. Louis, MO with her husband Roger and dog Bella. She has been a member of the CTA Anti-Racism Team since 2014, and cares deeply about the intersection of religion and racism. She is grateful for the opportunity to continue learning and growing as a second year seminary student at Eden Theological Seminary, and also works as the Administrator for the Office of Presiding Bishop for the Ecumenical Catholic Communion.
Read the rest of CTA’s Awaiting the Birth of Justice Advent reflections. A new reflection will be posted each week of Advent.