When you live with chronic anxiety, your brain never seems to be at rest. There are a number of practices and coping skills I have learned over the years, like mindfulness and meditation, which have helped to manage triggered anxiety. One thing I have unexpectedly come to appreciate has been these beautiful and massive prey animals, like the one I past yesterday on my way home. I envy the way he conveyed a mind, body, and spirit at rest. This sacred creature was content and without fear, reason enough they are often used for innovative and holistic forms of therapy.
The Christmas story breaks into a context abundant with anxiety triggers. Pervasive poverty. Foreign powers occupying and conquering the homeland. Imperial forces patrolling villages and threatening to pull bystanders into service without consent. Even Mary’s story is charged with complexities and restlessness as she made her way to Bethlehem for the census in the midst of a highly patriarchal society. The minds of those who lived then were sure to be racing. The regular rhythm of sabbath rest was no doubt more than a pious practice but a subversive act of defiance against the imposition of fear. Here the familiar words of the Christmas story increase in significance, “Do not be afraid!”
I need these words daily. Maybe you do, too. In light of so many reasons, both personally and related to the realities of our beautiful yet broken world, this Advent refrain is an invitation to put my mind, body, and spirit at rest. God is with us. God is for us. God will not forsake us. God is moving the story of redemption forward still. I think even horses have some sense of assurance in this gospel word. In whatever way you need it this time of year, aware the season can breed just as much angst and grief as it can comfort and joy, may you find rest in this ancient lyric, “do not be afraid.” May you dare to rest in it with another.