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Throughout the Christmas narrative, God presents people with a challenging invitation while simultaneously reminding them, “Do not be afraid.”

Although these words in themselves can be daunting, it’s important to look at what becomes possible when we move past fear. These words are an assurance that, though the fear is justified, it is worth pushing past. They are also a promise that God does not abandon his creation.

Mary says yes to becoming the mother of Jesus. Joseph agrees to take Mary into his home and raise Jesus. The shepherds travel a great distance to see the Messiah and then spread the word of his birth.

Mary’s “yes” allowed the living word to become flesh and dwell among us. In a similar way, when we offer our own “yes” to God, it allows a space for Christ to work through us in the world. With our “yes”, Christ also comes to earth. Often, it is a movement of the spirit versus a movement of the body. Even though we may not be presented with angelic messengers, today God still invites each one of us to build up His kingdom.

What happens when we place our fear in God’s hands and move forward in trust? Why is this such an important message?

Christ comes to earth every time we choose hope over despair, love over fear, and life over death. This radical response to fear changes us, changes communities, and changes the world.

In the words of Pope Benedict XVI:

“If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed. Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation. And so, today, with great strength and great conviction, on the basis of long personal experience of life, I say to you, dear young people: Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ – and you will find true life.”

Today launches our sixth annual holiday blog series. Please join us each day as we celebrate how pushing past fear led to incredible opportunities through stories and reflections from our missioners, volunteers, alumni, staff, and friends.

The individuals who come to Franciscan Mission Service’s programs said “yes” to God’s call to encounter our brothers and sisters on the margins. For most, this involved embracing the unknown and trusting that they were following God’s will. For our overseas missioners, embracing the unknown included language barriers, cultural differences, and new realities.

Missioner Allison Dethlefs in Cochabamba, Bolivia, shared, “As my ministry with a rural health foundation here in Cochabamba expanded to me accompanying patients to their doctor’s appointments, surgeries, and lab tests, I was terrified of being an intruder on their sacred space and of not knowing enough about medicine or the Bolivian medical system to be able to justify me being there; however, in waiting with so many beautiful people over the past few months, I have grown to see this challenge as an amazing invitation to relationship and to a new understanding of what it means to walk with the marginalized through complex and scary situations.”

This year’s blog series will celebrate experiences like Allison’s and the grace that can arise in the face of fear. Thank you for joining us on this journey!