But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Luke 1:13a
But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. Luke 1:30
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Luke 2:10
I have never seen an angel, but apparently, it is a frightening thing. We know this because, every time an angel appears in the Christmas story, the first words he says are, “Do not be afraid…”.
Now, I am no angel. But, as a peacemaker, I do know what it feels like for people to be frightened of me. It is actually a fairly common response, especially in church conflicts. When I am called in by a congregation or Christian organization to begin my work as a peacemaker, and I begin having my one-on-one meetings with the players, it is always interesting to me how frightened they seem to be to talk to me. Maybe it is because they know I am a lawyer? Or maybe it because they have misunderstood my role in the process? Or maybe it is their fear of being held accountable? I honestly do not know.
But I do know that, for peacemakers, it means we have one task that is first and foremost in every conflict…we must be a non-anxious presence. We must develop an ability to disarm the players, reassure them that they are safe, and guarantee a process which they can trust. We apparently share that task with the angels. Everything about our demeanor and our words must send a clear message: “be not afraid”.
I’m glancing at some of the long strings of comments we see today on our social media. I see plenty of name-calling, plenty of fear-mongering, and plenty of language designed to manipulate and twist truth to suit one particular narrative or another. What I see precious little of, however, is peace brokering. I see very few approaches designed to disarm and to allay any fears at the table. That, it seems to me, is the role of the peacemaker.
Being a non-anxious presence is our first prayer this Christmas season for ourselves and for the other peacemakers in our lives. Being like the angels in that regard is a great Christmas lesson. Merry Christmas, everyone!
© Blake Coffee