They were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid."
Luke 2:9-10 (NRSV)
My nephew, Jimmy, and his wife, Sylvia, were expecting a baby. The great event was to be any day, and they were filled with anticipation: a strange mix of excitement and concern. As new fathers are liable to feel, Jimmy experienced helplessness on the brink of an event over which he had no control. One night, he lay in bed beside his sleeping wife, immersed in a sense of darkness and uncertainty.
At the foot of the bed, Jimmy saw a figure alight with an inner brilliance that did not blind. It did not look like the shining of the sun or stars or any earthly light he had ever seen. He could distinguish a face amidst the white light, full of serenity and compassion. Jimmy says he experienced a soothing, loving, enveloping calm as the angel said, "Do not be afraid. Your wife is going to have a baby boy. All will be well."
It was several months before Jimmy could share his experience of this graced communication with anyone. It was so totally unexpected-not at all an ordinary experience of a normal, expectant couple, both lawyers and used to logical, factual argument. When he did speak of it, hesitantly, I asked Jimmy if he and Sylvia had known the baby was a boy. "No," he said. "We purposely didn't ask because we wanted it to be a surprise." It was, in fact, the very next morning after the angelic visit that William was born. A child of promise? Every parent hopes so, while the rest of us wait with them in prayerful detachment. This is God's realm. We are, all of us, merely recipients of every good gift.
Consider the parents of a newborn and the look of amazement in their eyes as they contemplate the infant they hold in their arms. They ponder this fresh, new life that is far beyond their understand ing. This child, this life, this love-all is beyond their power to explain. They hold in their arms the mystery of amazing and undeveloped human potential. Who is to say what this child will become? Who is to say what gift this child is to the world? Yet an angel says, "Fear not." God is in charge. Make this your prayer today:
Dear God, I trust you with my life. A lot of unknown, little understood things make me fearful. Today I hear your message: "Do not be afraid."
Consider the words from the Angelus: "The angel of God spoke to Mary; and she conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit." Realize that God's message comes to you, too. Think about the countless times in a day that the Holy One reveals to you something you are to recognize or a direction you are to take. As you grow used to the way God communicates with you, you begin to recognize these graced communications. God is with you as intimately as your very breath-ing. Sometimes there is a momentous point in time when you experience a special flash of God speaking to you-whether it's an angelic visit, the lyrics of a song, or the quiet words of Scripture. Something from within pierces your heart. Today, rest in God in openness, remembering that the Holy One speaks to you in many different ways. You can only be open to the movement of the Holy Spirit within you. You cannot turn God on and off by wishful thinking. Do not be discouraged if you wait upon God without seeming to receive a response. The very resting-in-the divine presence is beneficial. When you least expect, the Holy One will surprise you. Make this your prayer today:
Dear God, let me hear your voice when you speak to me. May my life, like Mary's, conceive wonderful things by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Make this your prayer today: Yes, Divine Guide. With Mary, I say, "Here am I, your servant." Show me how you want me to serve your people. I know that you may ask of me the very thing that I have been trying to avoid the most. I realize that this may be exactly what, in fact, you ask. Let me be open to my own unwelcome ideas. Let me courageously examine that which I do not want, for it may be your very own graced communication urging me gently. Show me what you want me to do.
Make this your prayer today:
Dearest God, you are asking something of me. I think it may be (name that which you feel urged to do). In faith, I want to begin to act in accord with what you want of me. Holy One, open the way before me. As the door in front of me opens, I will begin to step forward. If the door seems really closed, I will come to you in prayer and ask for light. Dear God, be the light for my path.
Make this your prayer today:
Dear Jesus, you are my way. I want to keep my eyes firmly fixed
on you and on the way you are with your Abba. 0 God, my loving Source-of Being, I wish to do always your will, as Jesus did. Lead me through the enlightenment of your Spirit.
Prayerfully accept the fact that moving in the direction God leads often involves moments of doubt, confusion or fear. Make this your prayer today:
I will turn my eyes upon you, Divine Guide, because you are my light. How can I fear when you command fear to be gone! I will gaze upon you, my God, and cling tightly to your hand as I listen for your graced communications.
Ponder the faith of the shepherds. After hearing the message of the angels, they trusted in the promise and set out for Bethlehem to find the child. Make this your prayer:
Oh how wonderful it is, dear God, to begin to move according to your will, especially when you give us a companion on the way. Then, at our road's end, we find your Son, Jesus. How promptly the shepherds act on the message of your angels. Oh, I tell myself, if God would send me an angel to tell me what to do, surely I would do it promptly. But in my life, I know you have sent me messages and messengers-perhaps not with wings, but messengers nonetheless. How promptly have I moved? Today I want to live in readiness to do your will, my God. I know I will see the great thing you are doing, and I will thrill to be part of your plan. I will go and I, too, will find Jesus.
This meditation is from A Promise of Presence by Bridget Mary Meehan and Regina Madonna Oliver