Christ is born!
Fear is an emotion that has both a psychological and physical response. When I am afraid, my knees knock; my hands sweat; my mind races; and my heart beats faster, all in response to fear! Funny how my body reacts the same way to being in love! I’m just teasing.
But, seriously, fear motivates so many of our actions and reactions. I know people who spend their whole lives afraid of what might happen, and they design their lives to manage their fears. They live their lives as slaves to what they fear! As I’ve told so many; fear is usually a lousy motivator, and yet how many choices in my life are based on what I’m afraid of? What if it didn’t have to be this way?
Look at our lesson in Hebrews 2:11-18:
BRETHREN, he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified have all one origin. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, “I will proclaim thy name to my brethren, in the midst of the congregation I will praise thee.” And again, “I will put my trust in him.” And again, “Here am I, and the children God has given me. Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same nature, that through death he might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage. For surely it is not with angels that he is concerned but with the descendants of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brethren in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make expiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered and been tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted.
The book of Hebrews is a veritable treasure-trove of theology. And this passage proves the point. Of course St. Paul is writing to a group of Hebrew Christians who are considering going back to Judaism because of the current state of persecution against those who follow Jesus Christ. And in this passage St. Paul is trying to show them that Jesus sets us all free from a “lifelong bondage” to fear, specifically the fear of death.
Look at this theological laundry list of insights about the Lord and His work for you and me: First, humanity and the humanity of the Lord have the same origin. This common origin is the Father. A common origin means He understands our fears, our desires, and our needs. Next, Jesus not only has a common origin with us, but He assumes our human nature as well. The marriage in the Man Jesus of a human and a divine nature means we can become by grace what He is by nature. In other words, we don’t have to be afraid anymore. Finally, His joining of natures, both human and divine, without change, without mixture, sets us free from death by His entering into death and destroying death by death. And His being a real human meant He experiences real suffering and real temptation so He can help those who suffer and are tempted. Sounds like a win-win for everybody but the devil!
This uniting with we humans in the Person of Jesus is such a huge and cosmic-changing event that His conception; foretold for centuries before He came, is announced by an Archangel to a young lady who had been prepared since birth to become the “gateway” for the Uncreated to enter His creation as a creature! The announcement that Christ would be born of the ever-virgin Mary was the harbinger of all that would follow and contains the victory of Christ over sin, death, and Satan when the blessed Theotokos utters the words we are called to utter every day: “Let it be done to me as you have said. I am the Lord’s servant.”
Today, as we continue to celebrate the Miracle of God becoming flesh for us, let’s embrace the message that the “lifelong bondage” we humans had suffered before Christ is over and now, if you are still bound by fear and death, it is most assuredly self-inflicted! Let the message of Being Orthodox on Purpose make 2018 free from fear!