"Do not be afraid" is a phrase that occurs twice in just 10 verses from the gospel of Matthew. It is said (I haven't yet counted!) that the phrase or similar words occur 365 times in the bible - one for each day of the year!
This Easter, many people are afraid; afraid of getting unwell, afraid for their loved ones or afraid of what the future might hold. How can we celebrate this Easter with integrity, surrounded as it is by the challenges of a pandemic and the very real fear that goes with it?
Well, I suggest that we go back to that first Easter...the first Easter when Jesus rose from the dead. No one was there when it happened - other than an angel or two.
The guards were so fearful they couldn't understand what had happened. The first two followers of Jesus to hear the news were also terrified - as we read Mary and Mary greeted the news with both fear and joy. Jesus' other followers were huddled away in a locked room, fearful and despairing.
What the first Easter shows us is that Jesus will meet us in times of fear and challenge in the same that he does in times of happiness and celebration. The cross stands above it all - that place where despair becomes hope, mourning becomes celebration and death becomes life.
We can in complete integrity proclaim Hallelujah, Christ is risen...because it is true. Our voices may waver a little, we may still feel safer behind closed doors - but Jesus will meet us in His risen life all the same.
Like our Family Choir sang this morning "Risen! He is risen! Hallelujah!"
Let us respond - "He is risen indeed! Hallelujah!"