Have you ever stopped to consider the contribution made to our lives by stories? Family stories; often passed on from generation to generation. Stories told about celebrities and the brave tales that make up our nation's history. War stories, disaster stories, love stories?
Among the most deeply regarded stories are those associated with our religious heritage. Those of us who try to live according to a strong faith and to worship with regularity are well acquainted with the articles of that faith as expressed most commonly in various Creeds.
There are, however, many others among us who have little contact with this community which we call "Church" and yet share and continue to appropriate as their own, its stories.
Often these stories are the only level of conscious identification they have with the Church of their mothers and fathers. Many will proclaim themselves as Catholic and mean it simply because our storybook is their inheritance too.
Indeed our storybook is rich beyond measure with something for everyone. Bible stories, spanning both Testaments, combine with the lives of the saints and our own experience to contribute, in no small way, to our personal identity.
The life of Jesus has been rightly called "the greatest story ever told," and the story of His birth is, without doubt, the most beloved chapter of all. We never tire of Luke's magic words and the beautiful carols and priceless children’s pageants that give them musical and visual expression.
Can you imagine a December without it? Can you imagine a Christmas without the Baby Jesus? ...without "Silent Night"?
Can you imagine a Christmas sustained only by lesser, though still beloved, stories of reindeer, elves, wrapping paper and people sitting in front of a dead tree, eating candies out of their socks! Can you imagine it? I can't.
When we were little children and fearful of the dark, someone we trusted would read or tell us a story until, firmly clutching our teddy bears, we drifted off to sleep. Today, our stories still help us to cope with fear. Fear of the darkness and of the unknown; fear of defeat, and of illness and of course, of death.
Actually the Christmas story is a prime example. It actually begins with an angel saying to a teenaged girl, "Mary, do not be afraid... Do not be afraid of what people think or say... Do not be afraid simply because you do not understand… Do not be afraid of an omnipotent God who appears be so distant, so remote."
I cherish the story about another little girl, a very little girl who, though having been comforted by her Father's assurances of God being with her to protect her through the night, made it clear that she was not entirely satisfied when she replied, perhaps somewhat testily, "Yes, Daddy, But I still want you to stay. I know that God is here, but I also want someone with skin on!"
Think about it... that is what Mary did! She put skin on God so that she could kiss Him, nurse Him, love Him and be hugged by Him! And so that he could say to us, "This is my body, this is my blood!" Be not afraid!