If you search on the phrase “awe and fear” or “awe and dread” there are rich sources and wise writings on how these concepts are intertwined. There are many lessons we can take from the stories of Jesus’ life and the stories attributed to Jesus’ telling. Fear and awe are themes at the beginning and the end.
When Jesus is born, a bright star appears in the eastern sky. (Was this a supernova so bright it was visible to the naked eye?) When the angels appear to the shepherds in the field, they say, “Be not afraid!” They reassure the shepherds that they bring good news, tidings of great joy for all people. And the shepherds go to Bethlehem to welcome the newborn king of peace, and they spread the news far and wide as they travel.
According to the Gospel of Mark, on the third day after his death, what we now celebrate as Easter Sunday, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James bring sweet spices to the tomb to anoint the body, but the rock is already rolled away from the tomb. Already their senses are heightened at this phenomena.
The women enter and see a man sitting in the tomb and he tells them Jesus is not here, that he has risen, and he will appear again in Galilee. He tells them to go and share this news with his Disciples. But the women are both amazed, and afraid. Their fear takes over and they do not say anything to anyone. So ends the original text of what is understood to be the first of the four Gospels.
Jesus’ life, like most lives, is flanked by both awe and fear, wonder and dread. Birth and Death are causes for fear and dread, and for awe and wonder. These are times in our lives that are filled with pain, and with amazement. But it is the life that comes between the two that matters most to me. In my faith, I hold the stories between Jesus’ birth and death with more weight than the miracles associated with his birth, death, and rebirth. “Miracles” abound in every moment of life.
What are the fears that keep you from fully engaging with the beauty, awe, and wonder in your life? What holds you back from living into the teachings of Jesus, and other prophets who have said in one way or another to love your neighbor as you love yourself? (Is difficulty loving yourself part of what holds you back?) What keeps you from speaking out against injustice, or sharing the good news of hope? Can you hold the fear gently and live boldly into the experience of amazement?