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A NEW HYMN FOR THE NEW YEAR! DO NOT BE AFRAID A song for the New Year


Text: Gracia Grindal Tune: Daniel Charles Damon

Jesus as Shepherd One of the earliest depictions of Jesus from the Callisto Catacomb in Rome

1. Do not be afraid, Jesus said,

I have conquered sadness and death,

In the shadowed night

I will be your light.

Rest in my arms, be not afraid!

R/Have no fear

I am here,

Fear no evil, I will give you rest.

Mercies brimming in your cup,

I will raise you up.

Come, dwell with me forevermore.


2. When around you strife and unrest

Fill your hearts with grief and distress,

I will carry you,

I will see you through.

Rest in the warmth of my caress.

R/


3. I am the good Shepherd who goes

With you through the valleys of woe.

Comfort I will give

So that you may live.

Safe in green pastures, rest your souls.

R/

Text: Gracia Grindal


REFLECTIONS

Do not be afraid! This November, I got a tune from my friend and collaborator Dan Damon. He asked if I had any words for it. The tune was lovely and comforting. And the first notes said to me, Do not be afraid! By the next day I had this text almost ready.


It has concerned me during the pandemic how fearful people are. For good reason. The fear of death is the big one and the virus was causing deaths especially to my age group. A relative told me that she and her husband had been part of a prayer team at their congregation. They had invited the neighborhood to come to the church to be prayed for. Nearly 2000 came--far more than they expected!. She said their prayer requests were heart rending. People had lost their jobs, their families were in trouble: children who had not been in school were lagging behind, and losing hope, many falling into drug addiction. They feared for their own future.


Our message as Christians is Fear not! We are the people of the resurrection and death has been defeated. We need not fear. Eternal life is ours. This is a message we need to hear over and over again in these times. All through Scripture people are told, Do not be afraid!


Fear is primal and crippling. When people are fearful, they retreat into themselves and submit to tyranny simply to alleviate their fears. People naturally become irrational and even vicious when they are afraid. They hide and abandon old routines and rules out of fear for their own lives. It is a natural instinct—we want to live. President Franklin Roosevelt understood this and greeted the American people in his first inaugural speech with the memorable line: "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." He understood how fear vitiated the common life of the nation and spoke to it, essentially saying, Fear not!


God knows we need to hear this word, all of us, all of the time. The angels proclaim it to Zechariah, Mary, Joseph and the shepherds. Jesus says it many times during his ministry, most memorably to the disciples in the storm when they thought Jesus, walking on the water, was a ghost. “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” Matthew 14:27.


In Luke 12:32, Jesus says, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” My Father’s good pleasure! Because I am living in the kingdom of life, I need not fear, Jesus says. That entire chapter is a sermon to calm our fears!


But, of course, we do fall back into fear many times. And fear is slavery. Paul speaks of this in Romans 8:15. “For you have not received the spirit of bondage again in fear; but you have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we say Abba, Father.” Maybe the most apropos is Hebrews 2:14, Christ came to “deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” The people among us seeking relief from such mental strain long to be freed from their bondage.


The biblical writers knew how debilitating and enslaving fear was and how present it was in our lives. That is one of the reasons daily reading of the Word helps us—we hear over and over again the good news: Fear not!


I haven’t had a television for nearly six months, so haven’t watched much news, but last evening I watched some, and was struck at the hysterical tone of the newscasters. Because today the media survives and grows on people’s clicks, or number of viewers, it is to their advantage to make people fearful enough to keep listening. It only exacerbates people’s fears. Only the good news can calm our fears. When Jesus says "Fear not," he then gives us his peace. Good news that we need to hear each and every day. "Do not be afraid! Jesus said."


As you face the New Year and its challenges and opportunities, take this song with you. I pray it will speak to you and give you peace! Amen!


Daniel Charles Damon

HYMN INFO

The text for the hymn gathers up images and sayings--the cup, the valleys, the green pastures, from Psalm 23, the great psalm of comfort. Dan Damon’s tune laid down the meter which helped me shape the hymn. I liked the short lines that called for rhymes. They sing well. It gave me a chance to speak to what I felt was the dominant need among all people today.


Daniel Charles Damon has been a good friend and collaborator for many years. Associate Editor of Hymody for Hope Publishing Company, Dan, an ordained elder, has served as pastor in the Methodist church. Named as a Fellow of The Hymn Society in the United States and Canada in 2016, Dan is teaching Church Music at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. He plays piano in a jazz group that features jazz versions of hymns and well known spiritual songs. He has set the works of many hymn text writers, including his own, over the years. He has been a gift to the church as it looks for new songs to sing and a gift to me as well. I am so thankful for his spirit of cooperation. There is a choral arrangement for it as well.


LINKS

Dan playing with his jazz group "I want Jesus to Walk with Me"









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