Pastor Nelson Bonilla: 12-17-23  “Be strong, fear not. God is with you”

denrob14Events, News, News & Events, SermonsLeave a Comment

Luke 1:47-55

During this season of preparation for Christmas, there are many things that give us joy. We experience joy while watching the magic and wonder of the holidays: colorful houses, busy malls, visiting families; We feel joy when we find the perfect gift to surprise a loved one; We feel pure joy when we watch our all-time favorite Christmas movie, when we sing carols or put up lights; During Christmas we know what joy looks like, smells like, tastes like, and feels like.

Today on the third Sunday of advent we celebrate joy, but how can we even dare to celebrate joy when so many people are going through tough times? How can we even speak of joy when some of our members are sick and others going through tough times because of an illness or some other reason? How can we talk about joy when people are suffering in Gaza? I think we can, because we have a good reason for it: God has fulfilled His promise, a Savior is coming soon; we must speak about joy, because it’s not just any joy, it’s the joy of the Lord. Nehemiah 8:10 says, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”

Mary’s words as told in the Gospel of Luke are nothing but joy. Mary is filled with joy at the thought of being pregnant with the child who will make the hungry full and transform the lowly into royalty. Mary sings her praises and asks us to join her in her joy and gratitude. She is filled with excitement as she learns that every generation to come will call her “blessed.” Mary’s song is joy – deep, pure, and overwhelming joy.

But do not let this joy fool us, this joy emerges in the midst of personal turmoil. Mary and Elizabeth had reasons to be worried. Elizabeth is old, she could die during delivery; her son could have been orphaned in the early stage of his life. However, all her worries are overcome by the words that the angel spoke to ZechariahDo not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord.”

Mary also had good reasons to be worried: she is not married; she has not known any man. She must give the news to her parents and to the man she is pledged to be married with; she had to face her community, everybody would think she had committed adultery, and she is at risk to be stoned to death. But -again- all these worries were also overcome by the joy of being chosen by God to bear the One who will save the world.   

Being chosen by Goddoes not mean everything will be fine and perfect in our lives, no, Mary still had to face the consequences of being obedient to God’s invitation to be the channel to bring his son into this world. Because, even when Mary said yes to God and was joyful to be part of his plans, it did not mean God was going to spare her from facing hard moments. But one thing I am sure of, and it is that when Joseph doubted her, when her parents yelled at her, when her whole town looked at her in a suspicious way, she remembered God’s message through the angel “Do not be afraid, you have found favor with God.”

In Christmas story we can see that Joseph, Elizabeth, Zechariah, and the shepherds were chosen by God, but that did not mean they did not have to face fear or doubts. In fact, throughout the story of Jesus’ birth, the first statement often is, “Do not fear.” When the angels appear to all these people, they often preface their good news with words of comfort: “Do not be afraid for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people.” Joy is not our first response when God give us some news. No, more often our first response to such amazing news is fear. God knows this and reminds all of us that fear is a normal response, but it is not part of God’s message. The news God shares thru the angels is one of joy! God understands our doubts, our worries, our fear, and comfort us with His words, he gives us assurance that He is with us, that whatever He asks us to do, He will do it with us; that whatever we have to go through in our journey he is with us, we will not be alone, He will be there by our side.

Therefore, in the midst of this world grieving in the season of Advent, we are not alone; we are part of the group of Mary, Elizabeth, Joseph, Zechariah, the shepherds, and everyone else who regardless of their fear and personal turmoil, they found joy in the fulfillment of the promise and in the possibility to be part of those chosen by God to bring hope, peace and joy to the world.

For a lot of us Christmas brings mixed feelings. During all this joy and happiness, we may be frightened by our emotions, our decisions, our relationships, our sickness or by the loss of a loved one. We might fear that we might never get over it, or that we have done something to deserve this grief. When we confront this fear, we can find comfort in the words of Isaiah 41:10: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Remember, fear is a perfectly normal response. We may be understandably frightened of everything that is going on in this world; we can be frightened of the uncertainty of the future. However, that is the beauty of the advent message! The Advent message is, God had defeated this world; light had defeated darkness; chaos has been defeated by God’s kingdom and with the season of Advent comes the promise of Christ’s birth. Christ’s birth brings joy to this world in the purest form. Christ’s birth enables us to hope again, to feel excited again, and to feel joy deep in our souls. Like the shepherds, it’s normal to be terrified and confused for what is going on in this world. But the joy of Advent is that Christ will be born, and his kingdom established.

Advent has with it the promise that, “Gladness and joy will overtake sorrows and sadness, and sorrow and sadness will flee away.” Isaiah 35:10.

Sisters and brothers this season of Advent, let us abandon fear and let us embrace joy and live the message of the angels: Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people.” Brothers and sisters this season of Advent let us practice what Nehemiah 8:10 says, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”

What are we afraid of? the future? Remember the song you used to sing when you were a little “He holds the future in His hands”; are we afraid to be alone during these holidays? Remember He promised to be with us always; He is in us and among us. Remember Nehemiah “the joy of the LORD is your strength.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *