The Angel said these words to Mary because real Angels always must always begin with comfort. Humans cannot meet Angels safely unless God has sent them. Yet even if God does send his Angels, it does not mean safety. Sometimes God sends Angels to execute His judgment! (Nobody told Him that “spiritual” means “soft and safe.”) God is just, righteous, and all-knowing, and His standards do not change with human desires. Sometimes He sends Angels to smite the disobedient.
Any person who believes himself to be so righteous that he need not fear an Angel from God is so arrogant that he should be afraid. We do not like to think of God smiting us. We have reduced the Holy God to a being whom we can “un-friend” safely. Yes, God is patient, but His patience has a limit. Yes, God is loving, but His love demands that we not destroy ourselves or others with our unbounded selfishness, eroticism, and pride.
The truth is that we are in danger. Yet even so, we lie to ourselves so much that, if we are not very careful, we lose the fear of God. If an Angel comes to me tonight, I hope the first thing I hear is: “Fear not!” But I cannot be sure.
Even hearing “Fear not!” requires an act of obedience.
Mary might have been afraid of Angels, and she was told not to be afraid. She might still have decided to disobey, and continued in fear. Instead, Mary said the best thing any human can say: she was God’s slave and was willing to do His will.
Mary got it right. Any human that would be free – of nature, other men, or even himself – must imitate Mary. Only the slaves of God can become children of God, because we all begin as slaves. Initially, we are slaves to sin, and sin will never set us free. As slaves, we need a new master, and only then will we have a new father.
Thus, even if we live a perfect life, even if we are as blessed as Mary, we still must obey, because all of us must be delivered from bondage to the world, the flesh, and the devils.
Mary could have been afraid of devils, but she was not.
No person who submits to God need fear devils, because darkness disappears before the Light. This Light is uncreated and cannot be destroyed. It dispels by appearing. God’s servants need do nothing more to chase away evil than to see God appear.
Mary could have been afraid of men, but she never was.
She knew that men would judge or scoff, but she did not care. In her time, misogynists demeaned her womanhood. Today we scoff at her virginity. She was not afraid. She was a woman and she was a virgin. She had the power of chastity: not the absence of sex, but the presence of purity. And she became the ideal human, because she embraced God’s will.
Mary could have been afraid of society, but she did not care for its judgments.
Ancient culture would shame her as a slut. Our own society would shame her as a victim of privilege. Her purity rebuked the first lie and the cosmic power that came from her obedience scoffs at the second. In the Revelation, the dragon cannot prevail against the Mother of God, because she said “yes” to God.
Mary did not fear devils or men or society. Instead, Mary feared God and, having feared God, did not ever have to be afraid again. Some claimed she was blessed for her womb or because of her tender and unique opportunity to suckle the Lord Jesus. The Angel called her blessed and happy because she was good.
The Mother of God heard the Word of God and she obeyed, becoming the first of many children of God. The Lord Jesus once reminded His listeners that any of us, even you and me, could become part of His holy Family. We need only hear the Word of God and obey and we will be His brothers and sisters.
If we will not join the Holy Family this Christmas, then the Star of Christmas points only to the place of our destruction. We can live in the world of the Nativity or the world of Herod. We can be Jesus’ brothers and sisters, children of Mary, or we can be children of Eve, children for destruction.
Will we obey? If we will, and only if we will, the word of the Angel still sounds for humanity, for us, for even me, saying, “Fear not!”