Hard to believe that the last time I wrote was November 27th!
We left on that day for Battisborough on the south coast of England. What to say about staying seven nights in a 19th century house, built with a view of the sea (and a lot of sheep)?! The winds blew at gale force almost unceasingly. The sheep on the hillside between us and the sea plodded patiently up and down, in and around the few trees. The rain, mist and downpours came and went.
Battisborough was an experience of what the Benedictines would call “stability.” We were all stuck in one house, with a land line phone and very spotty internet. Together for seven nights. We shared one big kitchen. Let’s just say those days were an experiment in community.
Then we were on to London for our final long weekend before coming home. The terror in Paris was still fresh in our minds, there had been threats against London, of course, and the first day we were there a mentally ill man attacked a few people with a knife in a tube station.
As I walked through the Soho area (and found a Red Wing Shoe store on Carnaby Street!), or strolled through Green Park and St. James Park, or walked down by the Thames for a final view of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, I was struck by how many people were enjoying the mild weather and festive holiday atmosphere. They aren’t oblivious to terror — just determined not to let it shape their lives. I was impressed by the resilience of the Londoners, and Europeans in general (there were many Italian and Spanish tourists around that weekend). London has dealt with terror since the IRA bombings of the late 20th century. The much overused phrase, “Keep Calm and Carry On”, although stemming from the time of the Blitz, still sums up reality in London.
“Do not be afraid” — this command, or reassurance, is repeated throughout the Christmas story we hear during these days. Joseph is told by an angel of the Lord not to be afraid. Zechariah is commanded by Gabriel not to be afraid. Mary is reassured by Gabriel with those same words. And the shepherds are comforted and challenged by this angelic message.
“Do not be afraid.” Fear not. There is much in our world today that causes fear. There may be circumstances in our personal lives that bring fear. But if I’ve learned one thing in my journey over the past few months it’s to listen to God’s voice: “Fear not.” When I think of the planes, trains, automobiles, coaches (British for bus), subway trains, and boats that we travelled on; when I think of the thousands of miles we covered, the cities and countryside we passed through; I’m grateful and amazed by our safety and the grace shown us.
Do not be afraid. There is good news of great joy for all people: Immanuel. God IS with us.
Have a blessed and joy-filled celebration of Jesus!