Readers Write: Fear
December 23, 2019
We asked readers to submit brief reflections on words associated with Advent. Below is a response on the word “fear.”
by Laura Alden
One December an age ago, I hid under wooden benches with other six-year-olds, arms wrapped our heads and necks, waiting for the sirens to stop. Not that we knew what nuclear missiles could do. I was more afraid of the alligators my sister said lurked under my bed.
Decades ahead in another December, I stood in the cemetery celebrating my grandfather’s life with other family members. In the cold, clear light of Iowa winter, I experienced the first of these sweetly-shared but also fear-filled moments. Life’s threshold is close; we blur past and present through smiles and tears of remembrance.
Another decade passes and, in another December, we welcome our first son into the world. Now fear takes a hard turn. The innocence of a child’s voice brings out protective instincts. I have been spared much of the harsh violence, deprivation, oppression and ill-health that is part of life. But I know that December is no respecter of persons or privileges or, even, good parenting.
Smoke rises from another school shooting. The taste of air and water sours mouths and ruins minds. We turn on those with whom we disagree.
What is God thinking – to send children into such a place? December comes.
And we respond to a peculiar movement of the earth, a light in the night sky. With the shepherds, the wisemen and women, the parents, and teachers and cooks and makers and shakers, the weak and strong, the lost and the seeking, we kneel in fields or at a manger or in a pew or at a desk, a stove, a sink, an empty lot. For a second, we gather in thin space and stopped time, waiting for a word.
Beating wings surround us, even and especially if we don’t believe in angels.
Laura Alden is publisher, Judson Press at American Baptist Home Mission Societies.