As Christmas Day approached, Little Johnny was being particularly helpful around the house, helping his mom with the household chores and even assisting in preparing the evening meal. Little Johnny’s mom knew that this sudden interest in housework had more to do with her subtle reminder of a Christmas stocking full of coal and switches for bad little boys than it did in Johnny’s desire to be overly domestic, but she was happy for the help. So, when he asked to help in baking some peanut butter cookies, she told him to run down to the basement and get a new jar peanut butter. Wide-eyed, Johnny responded "But it's dark in there Mummy!" "Don't worry honey,” she said, “Jesus is going to be down there with you!" Little Johnny reluctantly walked to the basement door and peered down the steps. Whispering into the darkness he said, "Jesus, if you’re down there would you please bring me up a jar of peanut butter?"
From fear of the dark to the fear of a mouse we all have our little phobias. Some are rational and others not so much. One particular fear that I encounter in others is ecclesiophobia – a fear of churches. Truly! And it is not as rare as you would think. I suppose there are many reasons for such a fear, but what it often boils down to is a fear of acceptance. Have you ever said, “If I stepped foot in that church the roof would collapse?” Have you ever been around a group of Christians and thought if they really knew who you were they would probably burn you at the stake? Have you broken so many of the “rules” (maybe you think that you are still breaking them) that you believe there is no point in even trying? If you have thought things such as this, or anything like it, then perhaps its time to think again.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (they hung him in a Nazi concentration camp because he was involved in a plot to assassinate Hitler) once wrote, “For those who are great and powerful in this world, there are two places where their courage fails them, which terrify them to the very depths of their souls, and which they dearly avoid, these are the manger and the cross of Jesus Christ.” It is a fearful thing to approach God. It takes courage and humility. It takes a willingness to accept your own brokenness and an understanding of your need for a Savior, but when you arrive… you discover grace.
Grace. Grace is God’s way of saying, “I love you. I love you, not because of who you are, but in spite of who you are. I love you.”
This Christmas, set aside your fear and step into the manger. You won’t be struck by lightning. You will be loved by God.