by Christopher Harbin

Joy Squelched in Fear
Christopher B. Harbin
Matthew 8:28-34

We began the season of Advent three weeks ago talking about hope. The Jews were full of hopes, even if they did not expect them to be fulfilled exactly the way God had planned. Their expectations ruled a good part of their thinking and directed how and where their hope could come to be fulfilled. Distancing themselves from such expectations, it was difficult to see much beyond their discomfort with the fact of God not proceeding according to the norms of their thought. Fleeing from these determinations caused them fear and anxiety, such that they could not celebrate God's grace and love with pleasure. It was not simply the Jews that acted this way. It seems that we all act at least in part in the same manner. When God does not obey our ideas, are we able to celebrate with happiness and joy, or do we squelch what should be a celebration of joy because of our fear of the unknown?
Jesus arrived in an unexpected manner in Bethlehem. He also arrived in unexpected ways in many other places through which he passed. His arrival in Jerusalem caused wonder and agitation. His return as an adult to Nazareth provoked problems and anger. When he arrived in the region of the Gadarenes, it was no different. He encountered people who were unprepared to receive him. He arrived to offer a freedom for life according to the ample norms of God's grace. The people were not ready to such. They worried too much over daily concerns, such that it was not possible for them to see the liberal quality of divine grace as evidenced in the words and actions of Jesus. They had a box into which God was supposed to act and He did not obey their rules. To the Jews, the Gadarenes did not obey the rules, but they had the same perspective regarding the Jews and Jesus, as well.
They were occupied with the business of living. They all had their tasks and to look at life from a distinct perspective would cost them energy th ...

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