Be not afraid.” “Fear not.” “Whom shall I fear?” What better words to prayerfully set the tone for a new year? The possibilities are endless, the unknown looms large, and our own ideas about the future more often than not end up completely off course. In the past few years, the song “Come, Holy Ghost” Maurus, LUYH 232 has become a congregational heartsong for the worshiping community at the Washington, DC, Christian Reformed Church. We have sung this song not only during the Pentecost season but also as a blessing to members traveling overseas for work and as a reminder of God’s presence for someone retiring and moving out of DC. We’ve sung this song through tearful eyes and choked-up throats to a sister entering palliative care. The refrain (“Be not afraid. Where you go, there I am with you”) is one that’s been sung so often and in so many poignant moments that it runs through our minds and our hearts throughout the week, entering our streams of consciousness with the steadfast reassurance of the presence of our God wherever we go.
For Advent, Pastor Meg Jenista Kuykendall preached the instances throughout the Christmas story (Zechariah, Mary, Joseph, shepherds, wise men) where the words “be not afraid” are spoken. We dug into what each character’s particular fears might have been as they were told that they had been chosen for a greater purpose. We looked at the many ways God’s promises of God’s presence were steadfast even in times of doubt and confusion. In the middle of one of the longest government shutdowns, when more than half of our church members were federal employees or government contractors, we wrestled with our own anxiety and fear. This particular service of Scripture and song was held on the last Sunday of the year, combining elements of an Old Year’s/New Year’s service and a Lessons and Carols service, to prayerfully hear again the times across the entire biblical narrative when God’s people are told “be not afraid.” As we read through these Scripture lessons and sang these songs of hope, we were reminded that God’s promises still ring true today and lead us into a new year, whatever that might hold, with the reassurance that wherever we go, God is with us. Do not be afraid.
Be not afraid—I bring you good news of great joy
The birth of Christ is proclaimed to the shepherds with words of comfort and words of joy.
Call to Worship: Luke 2:1–14
Do not be afraid, Abram—I am your shield and your very great reward
God’s covenant promises always carry with them the reassurances of God’s steadfast presence.
Scripture: Genesis 15:1–6
Song: “The Lord Be With You” Rienstra, LUYH 535
Greeting From God
We Greet Each Other
Do not be afraid—God has come to test you so that the fear of God will be with you and keep you from sinning
God graciously gives us the law as a guide for living without fear.
Scripture: Exodus 20:1–21
Prayer of Confession
Gracious Lord, we thank you for your gift of the law. For it is not something that has been given to us to scare us or to make us feel overwhelmed with guilt; it has been given to us as a gift—a gift to help us live as you want us to for our flourishing and for the growing of your kingdom. It’s a gift to help us live without fear. Forgive us for the myriad of ways we reject this gift and choose our own ways over your ways. Forgive us for our fear of following after you with our whole hearts and our whole lives. Continue to remind us of your gracious gift to us and your promise to be always near. Amen.
Song: “Don’t Be Afraid” Bell, LUYH 429
Assurance of Pardon and Guide to Grateful Living: 1 John 4:7–19
Song: “Don’t Be Afraid” Bell, LUYH 429
Do not be afraid—for the Lord your God goes with you
No matter what work God calls us to do, God always equips us with words of grace.
Scripture: Deuteronomy 31:1–8
Song: “Come, Holy Ghost” Mills and Benedict, LUYH 232 (vv. 1,2, and 4)
Do not fear—for I have redeemed you
As we approach a new year, we hear again God’s claim on our lives.
Scripture: Isaiah 43:1–7, 14–21
Old Year’s/New Year’s Morning Prayer interspersed with “Be Thou My Vision” Irish, LUYH 859, GtG 450, PH 339
The Lord is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear?
The psalmist’s words tell us the ways God’s salvation brings us courage.
Scripture: Psalm 27
Song: “The Lord Is My Light” Bouknight, LUYH 431
Do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or your body, what you will wear
Jesus reminds us of our heavenly Father’s care and provision for us so we need not worry.
Scripture: Luke 12:22–34
Song: “His Eye Is on the Sparrow” Martin, LUYH 441 (vv. 1–2)
Take courage, it is I! Do not be afraid
Jesus calls out to us in all the storms of life and graciously reaches out his hand to save us.
Scripture: Matthew 14:22–33
Song: “Still, My Soul Be Still” Getty and Townend
Do not be afraid! You are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here!
We need not fear the grave, for Jesus Christ was born to save.
Scripture: Matthew 28:1–20
Song: “Good Christian Friends, Rejoice” Medieval, LUYH 98 (vv. 2, 3), GtG 132, PsH 355
Do not be afraid—I am the First and the Last
Scripture: Revelation 1:4–8, 17
Declaration of Faith
On that day
we will see our Savior face to face,
sacrificed Lamb and triumphant King,
just and gracious.
He will set all things right,
judge evil, and condemn the wicked.
We face that day without fear,
for the Judge is our Savior,
whose shed blood declares us righteous.
We live confidently,
anticipating his coming,
offering him our daily lives—
our acts of kindness,
our loyalty, and our love—
knowing that he will weave
even our sins and sorrows
into his sovereign purpose.
Come, Lord Jesus, come.
— Our World Belongs to God, 57
Song: “Joy to the World (Psalm 98)” Watts, LUYH 92 (vv. 1, 3, 4), GtG 134/266, PsH 337
Blessing: John 14:27
Choral Parting Blessing: “God Go Before You” Hopp