At staff meeting this week Mary Hiteman was telling us about “Dress-Up-Like-a-Biblical-Character-Day” at our preschool.
All the children had come in costume, some more imaginative than others. For example: there were a dozen or so “Marys,” lots of shepherds, four Noahs, and one Jonah (who carried a small, blue whale). The most imaginative costume, according to Mary, was the one worn by Menley Blanchard, who came to preschool holding hands with her mother Susan, each of them wearing half of a large, red “C.” When Mary seemed puzzled Susan and Menley stepped apart and Susan said, “Get it? The parting of the Red ‘C’!”
But my favorite was the little boy who came in an Angels’ baseball uniform. Instead of the Los Angeles Angels, however, this little fellow was one of “God’s Angels,” Gabriel to be precise, as the name on the back of the uniform clearly indicated. He was wearing wings and a baseball cap with a halo attached, but on the front of his jersey were the words “Do not fear!” (which is what angels always say), and on each of his shoes there was a small jingle bell, to let others know he was coming, so that they would not be afraid.
I love that, and I think some of those biblical characters would have loved it, too. Zechariah, for example, who was “terrified” when Gabriel surprised him in the temple. Mary, for example, who must have been startled almost out of her wits when Gabriel dropped in to tell her she was going to have a baby. Those shepherds, for example, who were “sore afraid” when an angel sneaked up on them while they were watching their flocks by night.
There is a reason angels always say “Do not fear.” It’s not only because they show up suddenly and unexpectedly, often in the middle of the night. It’s because they know that fear is the thing most likely to keep us from doing the will of God. I’m going to try to remember that the next time I hear jingle bells. I’m going to try to think not so much of Santa and his reindeer as Gabriel in a baseball cap reminding us not to be afraid. Because if God’s will is ever going to be done on earth as it is in heaven…
…it’s going to require some fearlessness.