"Fear not!" - Luke 1:30, KJV
When it comes to fear, we often seem to have something of a love/hate relationship with fear. For the most part, we don't like to be afraid. It makes us feel uncomfortable - at least for a while. Brain research tells us that when we are afraid, it activates the "fight or flight" parts of the brain that go back to our most primitive brain structures. When something scares us, we tend to react quickly - maybe because that response is what saved our ancestors from the lion prowling in the forest looking for the next meal. But, we still react the same way now when we are afraid -- even if there is no real lion anymore.
However, there are some of us who seem to like it when we are afraid! Many of us will actually pay someone to scare us. Between 1995 and 2013, we paid $7.6 billion to go to watch movies that make us feel afraid. And that doesn't include books, TV shows or video games that do the same thing. One psychologist suggests a reason for this: "Fear is a very normal human emotion. One way of mastering that fear is to put yourself in a fearful situation that you know is going to have some external controls." (Rahul Mehra) That psychologist goes on to say that it is often the assurance of safety that makes the fear worth the price of admission - the knowledge that, in the end, it is going to be okay. That feeling of the adrenaline rush, combined with the assurance that we made it through, feels good to some of us.
So, why is the message of "Fear Not" found in four of the stories about the birth of Jesus? Is it simply because folks are terrified when a real angel appears in each story, or is there more to it than that? That is what we will begin talking about this Sunday as we start Advent and look forward to the good news of the birth of Christ!