And so it's finally Christmas. The tree is up and decorated. The cookies are all baked. The cards are mailed. The presents bought and wrapped.
Yes, it's Christmas, and if we are really honest about it, we must admit that our modern lives seem a long way off from the ancient story of shepherds and angels and Jesus in the hay. Oh it's a nice enough story, but sometimes we wonder what it really has to do with us? We live in a world of box stores and iPads, football playoffs, stock quotations, high tech medicine and the IRS. What can a 2,000 year old story, from a time of donkey carts and candlelight, tell you and me that we don't already know.
Truthfully? Only this: don't be afraid, fear not.
Those words are repeated over and over again in this age-old drama. When the angel Gabriel first tells Mary she is to give birth to the Christ he tells her: Fear not! When Gabriel lets Joseph know that it's OK to take Mary as his wife he says: Fear not. When the angels appear to the shepherds on the night of Christ's birth, they are told: Fear not!
It is the central theme of the Christmas story: Fear not!
But that's easy for an angel to say. What about us mere mortals? After all, we got to pay taxes to pay, mouths to feed, diseases to worry about, losses with which we must cope. It's really hard being a human being and that hasn't changed over the last two millennia. Not really. So tell us, angel, why shouldn't we be afraid.
Because he says, right there in the middle of it all - in the middle of Roman oppression after a long five day journey down a dusty road to Bethlehem, in a smelly, cold stable - right there in the middle of life, a baby has been born who will be called Emmanuel -God with us.
In taking on human flesh, in coming to us in and through Jesus, God says yes to humanity. God says it is OK to be a human being. In Jesus, God reminds us that it is OK to be human, to fail, to make mistakes.
All I ask, says the Almighty, is that you live, really live, the life you have been given.
Jesus in the hay is God's way of saying yes to life. And if God could be found in a first century stable, don't you think God can be found around here as well?
Fear not! God is with you!