Moved from Fear to Joy: A Christmas Gift that Keeps Giving
Fear to Joy. This is the movement that Christ brings at Christmas. Our parents, Adam and Eve, hid themselves in fear after they forsook the joy of perfect communion with God and each other. Hearkening no longer to the Lord’s living voice but to the serpent’s unholy hiss, they hid from each other with their makeshift garments and from God who walked in the midst of the garden with them. Yet, the Lord’s dismissal of sinful Adam, Eve and all humankind from that garden was preparing us for the coming of the crusher of the serpent’s head, the One who comes to restore to us the joy of our salvation (Genesis 3). His Name signals salvation; His Name is Jesus. As St. Zechariah (Luke 1), St. Mary (Luke 1), St. Joseph (Matthew 1), the shepherds in the fields (Luke 2) and the people who beheld the signs from the Lord feared often and much, Christ came to move them from fear to joy. Messiah’s birth heralded a new era, a time of joy when glory is given to God in heaven as peace is given to all on earth on whom His favor rests. Moving from fear to joy made Zechariah to sign and eventually scribble, Mary to sing and rejoice, Joseph to adapt, adopt and dream all the more and the shepherds to go and tell what they had heard and seen so that many people could be amazed…and be saved.
Fear to Joy. This is the movement Christ brings at Easter. Women who saw Jesus crucified would go to the tomb to anoint His dead body early on the first day of the week (Matthew 28). When they arrived, they were greeted by those whose message continues to meet us in fear yet bring us great joy. “The Lord is risen,” is the message intended to move people from fear to joy so that, like St. Mary Magdalene, we can hear Him call our name in the garden again (John 20), just like we used to hear Him when we communed with Him in the garden of Paradise. Moving still in fear (Mark 16) and yet from fear to joy (John 20) made Mary Magdalene run to tell the others the good news just like the Emmaus disciples would (Luke 24) so that people who had not yet seen would come to believe.
Fear to Joy. This is the movement Christ brings at Pentecost. Having ascended into heaven, Jesus bade His disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the gift He promised them. As the Spirit descended at Pentecost, the Word of the Lord was fulfilled as prophecy, dreams and visions given by the Spirit would lead many to repent from sin and be baptized (Acts 2). The Acts of the Holy Apostles are truly the ongoing “Acts of Jesus” as those who are ill are healed, those who are lame walk, those who are dead rise and those who are fear-filled are joy-filled as many more people are amazed by the signs and wonders and come to faith in Christ, moving by grace from fear to joy.
Fear to Joy. This is the movement Christ brings in the Liturgy. Invoking the Name into which we are baptized, we are reminded of our sin. The Law accuses us, piercing our hearts as we are shown that we have been standing, working, living and sinning in the presence of our perfect, righteous God. Yet, He comes to us also with the Gospel, delivering us the grace that was purchased for us by our Divine Redeemer through His death and resurrection. Gathered by the Holy Spirit at the Holy Altar of our Lord, we not only “lift up our hearts” but we “give thanks to the Lord our God” as we receive His precious Body and Blood for our forgiveness, life and salvation purchased for us on the throne of His Holy Cross. Having received the Lord Himself, having held Him, having heard Him, having seen Him as He comes, we like Simeon can depart in peace as His Word has been fulfilled (Luke 2). That peace embodies joy as Jesus--the joy of our desiring—moves us from merely being alive in fear and dread into living in joy, hope and expectation. His unconditional, undeserved love can change anything…and it literally changes everything. By the power and grace of that same Spirit, we, like the Blessed Virgin Mother, ponder these things in our hearts as we, like the shepherds, glorify and praise God for all that we have heard and seen during and after every Divine Service.
Fear to Joy. This is the movement Christ brings at His glorious return. It is the beauty of everything for which we have prayed, all about which we have sung and the climax of every good work ever done in righteousness. It is the recognition that we need not be afraid of any mess we make nor anything God has made. Our fear is only of Him (Psalm 128) as we sinners made saints are privileged to live in the presence of and walk in the way of our ever-holy God. He moves us from fear to joy. He has not given us a spirit of fear but a spirit of love, of power and of self control (2 Timothy 1:7). He does not want us dwelling in fear; so, let us not dwell on fear. Let us dwell in Him and dwell on Him, our true joy. Let us look forward to the day when He returns to make all things new. And if tears still flow from our sad eyes that well up from our struggling, sin-soiled souls and from our busted, bruised and broken hearts, let us look for and live for the day when He will wipe away every tear from our eyes. “Jesus has come to bring pleasure eternal,” (Lutheran Service Book 533), to move us from fear to joy.
Our Lord move you from fear to joy this ChristMass, every day and always.
Peace, joy and love,
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A Brief History
By the mercy of Almighty God, Redeemer Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Bronx, New York, was founded in 1928.
Members of St. Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Yonkers who lived in the Wakefield section of the Bronx in...
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Redeemer Evangelical Lutheran Church
4360 Rev. Theodore Wittrock Crossing
(Boyd and Barnes Avenues)
The Bronx, NY 10466-1804
Phone: 718.324.1288 - Fax: 718.324.2056
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