"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
December 19, 2013
Fear Not
by Hannah Bird

Growing up, I never liked Christmas much. We did fun things. We got a real tree. We sang carols and lit advent candles. My mother made chocolates. Our counters were covered in beautiful hand dipped chocolates. My mother made Stollen, a German Christmas bread. We read the Christmas story.

But still for me there was some lingering ache. There was a nameless sorrow perched on my shoulder. Part of it was a family sorrow. Part of it was that I was terrible at being a kid. I found grief and terror the way other children find sticky things to play with. Even the best Christmas ended with some tiny ache in the pit of my stomach.

I didn’t really understand Christmas. I thought I did, of course. It isn’t terribly complicated. It is a holiday celebrating the birth of Christ. It is about giving and love and joy and family and hope.

I grew hearing the same teary stories about the true meaning of Christmas that everyone else heard. Even I was moved by Timmy Crachit’s, “God bless us, everyone.”

But still there was that weighted grief. It lurked just beyond my words and poisoned the season. I felt empty and adrift: hobbled by some unknowable injury. I heard about joy I never felt. Joy and I remained strangers for a very long time. There were a lot of broken Christmas mornings. The fear I always carried was far too heavy a thing to have a light heart.

Until a sunny morning in April. I stood on the third floor of a hospital, my newborn daughter in my arms. I was joy, every inch of me. It was brighter than I could bear. I watched cars drive back and forth on the busy street and wondered how they could go about their little lives when such astounding wonder had entered the world.

Even as I rejoiced, the fear started to chatter. How will you keep her safe? How will love well when you never have before? How will you that have failed so greatly and with such regularity succeed at this? How will you teach her love? How will she know that she was the world’s most perfect joy?

I thought of Christmas morning and the perfect joy that was the Christ child. I thought of a snuggly fat baby and a terrified mother. But even there I did not find my answer.

I am sure that Mary was a much better woman than I. There was little comparison. I thought of Joseph doing his best to serve, beyond his own culture and understanding. I thought of the faithful who had believed. But still there were my questions and my own ancient aches.

Then, standing in the sunlight, I remembered the first announcement that Christmas had come. I thought of the shepherds hearing the words of an angel, “Fear not, for I bring unto you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all nations. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior which is Christ the Lord.”

I finally understood Christmas. Fear not. It is the end of fear. Fear not. It is the end of sorrow. It was the birth of hope and joy. All those fears that had walked so many miles with me could not cross that threshold. All the grief that kept me balled up tight in the shadows had no place in the quiet stable.

I have done a great many things since that April morning that I finally celebrated my first Christmas. It has always been imperfect. But flawed and broken as it may be, I know now that it can still be redeemed.

The tiny baby girl that I loved so dearly grew up and went out into the world. I was not a perfect mother. I was not even close. All that I gave to her was a speck of sand compared to what I wanted for her, and for the five little ones that followed her.

But still there is no room for fear. Because of Christmas my broken things are swallowed up in beauty. All that I can do will never be all that is needed, but that gap is filled by an infinite Savior, not my fears.

Fear not.

Ok, I will.

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About Hannah Bird

I am me. I live at my house with my husband and kids. Mostly because I have found that people get really touchy if you try to live at their house. Even after you explain that their towels are fluffier and none of the cheddar in their fridge is green.

I teach Relief Society and most of the sisters in the ward are still nice enough to come.

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