Have you ever read or heard something and thought that it was written specifically for you? Not a note that was addressed to you, but something designed for general public consumption that just speaks to you. The first time it happened to me, it was the book Of Mice and Men, which is still my favorite book. I was a teenager longing to grow up and see the world, and it provided me with the understanding that a person might have to make painful sacrifices in order to achieve a sought-after change. That book provided me the motivation to leave home for college.
On Christmas Eve, the pastor at our church, Webster Gardens Lutheran, gave a sermon that very well could have been crafted solely for me. It was titled Christmas Fear, and it was all about fear being a dominant emotion during the holiday season. Pastor Christiansen sagely guided the congregation through the tumult that was the first Christmas, and tied in themes from modern day - all while urging the congregation to dispatch their fears and focus on faith. To help him push the point home, all the children attending the service were given signs to hold up that read, "Fear Not," and every time the pastor urged the congregation to loosen the bonds of fear, the kids would hold up their signs and yell, "FEAR NOT."
This year has been filled with fear for me. Leaving the only profession I have ever known to enter the civilian sector was scary. At times my job search was terrifying, as I lay awake wondering if I would be able to support my family, wondering if I would love my new job as much as I loved flying planes, wondering whether I was making a huge mistake. In August I almost lost my Dad. Every time my phone rang that day, I was petrified. And then we went through learning Mal had a brain tumor. Two surgeries with her life in the balance, learning it was cancer, knowing it can't be fixed overnight... It has left me scared, at times frozen with fear.
But then there I was, sitting in a pew, surrounded by my family and friends on Christmas Eve. And every few minutes, either Micah or Mal would hold up their sign and yell, "FEAR NOT" (often at inappropriate times, but hey, they are two years old) and it kept making me feel more and more strongly that everything is going to be all right. And that message has propelled me to have a truly enjoyable holiday.
Malorie, Micah, Rachel and I have had a terrific Christmas. Joy and wonder filled the house on Christmas morning as the kids saw that Santa had eaten their cookies and left them gifts. We got to Rachel's parents on Christmas afternoon, and then my parents travelled in from Chicago that night to spend time with us. The twins have learned several Christmas carols, and have sung them to anyone willing to listen. They've marched around spinning tales of the Abominable Snowman and Rudolph. Mal's wounds have recovered and she is happy, strong and vibrant. She got a stylish, short new haircut that will hopefully lessen the impact of the side effects of radiation. In true Missouri fashion, we got two inches of snow and the kids got to go sledding for the first time ever, and then the next day it was 60 degrees outside and the kids got to play outside wearing only a windbreaker as a coat. Visits from out of town friends, a trip to Chuck E Cheese, the season has been packed with reasons to smile.
Radiation starts in a week. Rachel and I are scared, but we are not going to let that fear rule us. I have slept easier the last week or so, but I know the fear will creep back in eventually. We kept Micah and Mal's signs from church, and so every time I feel a bit down, I plan on breaking one of them out and asking the kids what it says. I'm sure they'll remind me. Christmas Fear is natural. But so is Christmas Faith.
*** I believe that many other people might be moved by Pastor Christiansen's message, and so I have posted an audio link to it below. If any of you have been struggling with fear, or just need to hear an uplifting message, enjoy. I hope it brings as much relief to you as it has for us. As an added bonus, Pastor mentions our family at around the twenty minute mark, so also listen up for our 15 minutes of pulpit fame. ***