Minister's Message

Christmas Message 2013

Quite recently, Jeremy Paxman, the Newsnight presenter, has accused the BBC of pogonophobia (the fear of beards) after much media comment on his facial hair since the summer. Not surprisingly, the Beard Liberation Front has offered its support in confronting the latent “beardism”  it discerns in British culture.
While fear of the dark is another quite common emotion – and one about which we may have much sympathy - John Lennox (Professor of Maths at Oxford University) caused much consternation by describing atheism as a “delusion” and a “fairy tale for those afraid of the light”.
When asked why he thought this produced so much anger, he said: “Because I’m hitting a sore point. They think we’re the ones who believe in the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus and so on, and they don’t like the argument being put in the other direction. In my experience, they’re not very good at answering it either  …  So there’s a little bit of me saying, “Look, you guys are doing this to us all the time, but what’s the justification?” Then pointing out the flaws, the very deep flaws, in atheistic arguments”.
No doubt there may be many reasons a person chooses to adopt an atheist position but, these things aside, the notion of being “afraid of the light” is perhaps not so bizarre as it might sound – and not just for atheists but people of faith too. When dreaming, themes of exposure in a public setting, whether in the bathroom or in being found without clothes on, are familiar to many people.
Perhaps most folk would cringe at the thought of their deepest and darkest secrets or the hidden recesses of their hearts, with their inmost thoughts and imaginations, being projected up on a large public screen for everyone else to see. The fear of light and exposure may not be so uncommon after all.
Jesus touched on this when He said, “The Light has come … but men have lived darkness rather than Light … and will not come into the Light for fear their deeds will be exposed”.
By contrast, “Everyone who lived by Truth comes into the Light …” (John 3: 19-21). But of course it’s only in a context of love and acceptance that we are free to do that.
In Biblical thought the opposite of fear is “faith” and freedom, and Jesus’ message therefore is a foundational one about love and acceptance on God’s part. “The Truth”, he said, “will set you free”. (John 8:32) Jesus came, the Bible adds, “to free those who all their lives were held in captivity by their fear of death”. (Hebrews 2:15) Hence His constant encouragement to “fear not” but to believe and trust the good news He brings.
Fear can have such a debilitating effect on our lives and is generally a real barrier to moving on in faith. This is as much true for “the believer” as for the person who has not yet found faith. Taking the next step in faith, whatever that is for us, can be genuinely scary. What does it mean if I accept this? What will others think? What if they won’t go with me? Will I lose control? Am I losing my mind?
Indeed, there are 365 times in which the Bible says, “Be not afraid,” in one form or another – as it has been pointed out, once for every day of the year.

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