"Do Not Be Afraid"

A Reading for Use with Advent Candle Lighting or on Christmas Eve

Zechariah, Mary, Joseph, the shepherds—all were living ordinary lives that were upended when God sent his messengers to them. Our Advent services at Brookfield Christian Reformed Church focused on “what each character’s particular fears might have been as they were told that they had been chosen for a greater purpose” (“Be Not Afraid,” RW 133, p. 30). The following could be separated and used throughout Advent with the candle lighting. We used it as part of our Christmas Eve service as both a summary of our Advent series and a challenge to listeners: how will you respond when God has a message for you?

[Indented portions should proceed rapidly, almost overlapping. During each section that focuses on a character, that reader should be a step forward from the others.]
Reader 1: Zechariah’s life—
Reader 2: A priest.
Reader 3: Righteous in the sight of God.
Reader 4: Childless.
Reader 2: Very old.
Reader 1: Then one day—
Reader 3: Chosen by lot.
Reader 4: Worshipers praying.
Reader 2: In the temple.
Reader 3: Burning incense.
Reader 1: An angel appears!
Reader 4: Startled.
Reader 2: Gripped with fear.
Reader 1: The message—
Reader 3: His prayers heard.
Reader 4: A promised son.
Reader 2: A powerful prophet.
Reader 3: A prophet to prepare the people.
Reader 4: A prophet to preach repentance.
Reader 1: Unbelievable!
Reader 2: Silenced.
Reader 3: Mute for months and months.
Reader 4: Belief growing with Elizabeth’s womb.
Reader 1: Zechariah’s changed life—
Reader 2: A priest.
Reader 3: Repentant and righteous.
Reader 4: A father at last!
Reader 2: Very old, very joyful, speaking praise to God.
Reader 2, 3, 4: Do not be afraid!
Reader 1: Do not be afraid?
Reader 2, 3, 4: Do not be afraid . . .
Reader 2: . . . of what God intends to do.
Reader 2, 3, 4: Do not be afraid . . .
Reader 3: . . . of what God has asked of you.
Reader 2, 3, 4: Do not be afraid . . .
Reader 4: . . . when you do not understand.
Reader 2, 3, 4: Do not be afraid.
Reader 2: God is working out God’s plan.
All: Do not be afraid! [softer] Do not be afraid! [stage whisper] Do not be afraid! [and similarly wherever this line appears]
Reader 2: Mary’s life—
Reader 1: Living in small-town Nazareth.
Reader 3: A virgin.
Reader 4: Pledged to be married to Joseph.
Reader 1: Young.
Reader 2: Then one day—
Reader 3: The angel Gabriel!
Reader 4: Greetings.
Reader 1: Highly favored?
Reader 3: Greatly troubled!
Reader 2: The message—
Reader 4: Conception, delivery, a son.
Reader 1: Son of the Most High.
Reader 3: A king.
Reader 4: An eternal King!
Reader 2: But how?
Reader 1: The Holy Spirit.
Reader 3: The power of the Most High.
Reader 4: Confirmation? See Elizabeth.
Reader 2: Mary’s changed life—
Reader 1: Still living in small-town Nazareth.
Reader 3: A virgin, pregnant.
Reader 4: Still to marry Joseph?
Reader 1: Young, humble, a servant, glorifying God.
Reader 1, 3, 4: Do not be afraid!
Reader 2: Do not be afraid?
Reader 1, 3, 4: Do not be afraid . . .
Reader 1: . . . of what God intends to do.
Reader 1, 3, 4: Do not be afraid . . .
Reader 3: . . .of what God has asked of you.
Reader 1, 3, 4: Do not be afraid . . .
Reader 4: . . . when you do not understand.
Reader 1, 3, 4: Do not be afraid.
Reader 1: God is working out God’s plan.
All: Do not be afraid! Do not be afraid! Do not be afraid!
Reader 3: Joseph’s life—
Reader 1: Living in small-town Nazareth.
Reader 2: A carpenter.
Reader 4: Of the line of David.
Reader 1: Engaged to Mary.
Reader 3: Then one day—
Reader 2: Upsetting news.
Reader 4: Mary is pregnant.
Reader 1: There’s a law.
Reader 2: Sad plan: quiet divorce.
Reader 3: A message one night—
Reader 4: An angel in a dream.
Reader 1: Take Mary as your wife?
Reader 2: From the Holy Spirit?
Reader 4: A son to be named Jesus.
Reader 3: Joseph’s changed life—
Reader 1: Living in small-town Nazareth. Gossip?
Reader 3: A carpenter. Obedient.
Reader 4: Lending David’s lineage.
Reader 1: Married. To pregnant Mary.
Reader 1, 2, 4: Do not be afraid!
Reader 3: Do not be afraid?
Reader 1, 2, 4: Do not be afraid . . .
Reader 1: . . . of what God intends to do.
Reader 1, 2, 4: Do not be afraid . . .
Reader 2: . . . of what God has asked of you.
Reader 1, 2, 4: Do not be afraid . . .
Reader 4: . . . when you do not understand.
Reader 1, 2, 4: Do not be afraid.
Reader 1: God is working out God’s plan.
All: Do not be afraid! Do not be afraid! Do not be afraid!
Reader 4: Shepherds’ lives—
Reader 1: Living in the fields outside Bethlehem.
Reader 2: Night watchmen for the flocks.
Reader 3: Common folk. Workers.
Reader 1: People of action.
Reader 4: Then one night—
Reader 2: An angel!
Reader 3: God’s glory shining!
Reader 1: Terror!
Reader 4: The message—
Reader 2: Good news!
Reader 3: Great joy! A baby.
Reader 1: A Savior, the Messiah, the Lord!
Reader 2: Confirmation? See the manger.
Reader 3: Glory to God in heaven!
Reader 1: Peace to God-seekers on earth.
Reader 4: Shepherds’ changed lives—
Reader 1: Off to Bethlehem.
Reader 2: The baby in the manger.
Reader 3: Spreading the news around town.
Reader 1: Then back to work.
Reader 2: Watching the flock. Praising God!
Reader 3: Common folk.
Reader 1: People of action. Witnesses. Worshipers.
Reader 1, 2, 3: Do not be afraid!
Reader 4: Do not be afraid?
Reader 1, 2, 3: Do not be afraid . . .
Reader 1: . . . of what God intends to do.
Reader 1, 2, 3: Do not be afraid . . .
Reader 2: . . . of what God has asked of you.
Reader 1, 2, 3: Do not be afraid . . .
Reader 3: . . . when you do not understand.
Reader 1, 2, 3: Do not be afraid.
Reader 1: God is working out God’s plan.
All: Do not be afraid! Do not be afraid! Do not be afraid!
Reader 1: Our lives—
Reader 4: Where do you live? [substitute local town names] Milwaukee? Brookfield? Further out?
Reader 2: Are you young? Very old? Somewhere between?
Reader 3: What are your plans? What are you longing for this Christmas?
Reader 4: A child. Fulfilling work.
Reader 2: Better grades. Better friends.
Reader 3: A wife. A husband. A better relationship.
Reader 4: Becoming a grown-up.
Reader 2: Something big to happen.
Reader 3: What are you hoping for? Working toward?
Reader 4: Spiritual growth?
Reader 2: To be used by God?
Reader 3: God’s name to be glorified?
Reader 2: God’s kingdom to be advanced?
Reader 4: Then one day—
Reader 2: A message.
Reader 1: During your devotions.
Reader 3: Through a sermon.
Reader 2: In a situation demanding action.
Reader 1: As a sudden inspiration.
Reader 3: As a nudging in your heart.
Reader 2: You should.
Reader 1: But . . .
Reader 3: . . . there will be a cost.
Reader 2: And success seems uncertain.
Reader 3: Our changed lives—
Reader 1: Accepting God’s message.
Reader 2: Obeying. Taking action.
Reader 4: Accepting the consequences.
Reader 1: Watching God’s plan unfold.
Reader 2: Praising God for what he is doing.
Reader 4: Common folk. Kingdom folk.
Reader 1: Workers. Witnesses. Worshipers.
All: Do not be afraid!
Reader 4: Do not be afraid?
All: Do not be afraid . . .
Reader 1: . . . of what God intends to do.
All: Do not be afraid . . .
Reader 3: . . . of what God has asked of you.
All: Do not be afraid . . .
Reader 4: . . . when you do not understand.
All: Do not be afraid.
Reader 1: God is working out God’s plan.
Reader 2: And nothing is impossible with God.
All: Do not be afraid! Do not be afraid! [two silent beats]
Do not be afraid!
[End]

Lee Fennema is a part of the worship planning group at Brookfield Christian Reformed Church near Milwaukee, Wisconsin.