The Polar Express. Read it? Seen it? The book is good, the movie is so-so. But the story is great. Here's the Reader's Digest version. It tells of a little boy who finds himself at the North Pole, waiting for Santa to pick someone to receive the first gift of Christmas. The little boy gets picked. His choice of gifts? A bell from Santa's sleigh. He places the bell in the pocket of his robe, which unfortunately has a hole in it. The bell is lost. But on Christmas morning, a package is found containing, yes, you guessed, the special bell along with a note from S.C. As the little boy rings the bell, he revels in the beautiful sound it makes. His parents, however, cannot hear the bell; they're convinced it's "broken." And as the story ends, most of his friends and even his sister lose the ability to hear the first gift of Christmas. Reason? They grow old. They stop believing.
The Shepherds' story in Luke 2. It tells of the first gift of Christmas. Do you know what that was? Sure, the obvious and correct answer is Jesus, but do you remember the first facet of the gem of the glad news? Think about the angel's tidings. Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes. Yes, but back up a little. Born in the city of David, a Savior. Yes, but a little further back. The very first thing out of the angel's mouth. Yeah, now you've got it. Don't be afraid.
As we grow older, we lose our ability to hear that first gift of Christmas. We stop believing. And we give in to fear. It's fair though, life is hard, eh? There are wars and rumors of wars and the never-ending-war, lead paint on Thomas the Tank Engine and Dora and Boots, political folks throwing faith candy at the crowd and we're jumping in the streets to get some, an economic recession probably on the horizon, people getting killed in the streets and people getting killed in our churches, kids being mean on YouTube and their parents being more mean on the soccer field, families losing their homes due to ballooning mortgage rates, breast cancer, colon cancer, global warming on some level, the death of the middle class and the emergence of the best-dressed-poverty in America, the worship wars being replaced by the justice wars...
Lots to be afraid of. But the angel's still announcing the good news and the very first gift of the GIFT is: Don't be afraid. Emmanuel, God's with us.
Don't be afraid. Don't be afraid. Fear not. Fear not. No created thing can separate us from his love. Let them with ears hear. The bell still rings. Peace on earth, goodwill to men. Don't be afraid.
I'm reading The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman. After receiving hundreds of emails warning me of this book, I figured I needed to read it in order to be able to respond and not react (like those email-ers). I'll let you know, but so far the book is a wonderfully written page-turner.
My girlfriend and I watched John Carney's Once the other night. It's out on dvd now. Instead of writing hundreds of emails encouraging folks to watch this movie, I'll just send this one Once. Rent it. Watch it. Hear it. Feel it.
Don't be afraid.