Our Christian tradition has a long-standing delight and interest in the contrasts in the Nativity story.  From humble beginnings in a stable, the savior of the world is born.  Our gospel stories about this event make it clear that our very human world is the material from which God has given us the gift of the Christ Child. 

The image of a tiny newborn, still wet from birth, barely able to focus his eyes and unable to speak or make meaningful gestures, helps us to grasp the human One as one of us.  He begins his life as we do: vulnerable, dependent, and fully human. 

At Christmas, our focus is on the newness of things – of the world around us and the world within.  We symbolize this newness with fresh evergreens in our houses and church, in fresh baked goods that we bake especially for this season, and in gifts that symbolize new beginnings and new ways. 

This was the message the angels were delivering to the shepherds:  don’t be afraid, something new and miraculous is happening, the world will never be the same again because God has come among us. We are not alone. We will never be alone.

Fear not.  This was the angels’ message for the humble sheep herders going about their work; and it was the message for the wise men traveling from afar; and for Mary – the mother of Jesus.

Fear not.  This message is meant for us, too.  We may believe we already know this to be true. After all, we know the Christmas story. 

But how deep is our trust in God’s messengers?  How much do we believe that we ought not to allow fear to shape our lives?

We each can easily list our reasons for fear.  So, too, could Mary and Joseph, and the shepherds.  Fear, part of the human condition, does not belong to any one generation.  It has fueled the worst of our conflicts and tragedies.  And it is difficult to resist if we do not have the peace of Christ to ground our sense of being.

The “good news” the angels brought to the shepherds that night is the good news that remains with us today:  God is now here with us.  God is not distant and unresponsive.  God is living as one of us, and by this, we will know that we are not alone and that we are loved because we are worthy of love. 

In those places and times when we fear no one cares or sees us; in those times when we fear we are desperately alone and unloved, the birth of Jesus reminds us of the wonderful thing God has done:  we are not alone, God is with us. Now and Always.

We celebrate Christmas to remind ourselves and one another that no one can separate us from the love of God.  We celebrate Christmas to re-tell the story of the gift God has delivered.  Even from our human condition, whatever the humble manger might be in our lives, God in all his mystery and greatness becomes recognizable even to us.  We have received great love – a divine gift that will never die. 

God is with us today and for all eternity.

This is, indeed, good news of great joy.  

Merry Christmas!