Histories reveal startling lessons: for the most part, human beings merely stumble through life without actually grasping the implication of choices or decisions. Guided by a limited range of understandings and, too often, an incongruent sense of conviction about those, we compound problems even as we solve issues in every generation. Maybe that is part of what makes Christmas so special and memorable: it marks the beginning of possibility, of divine presence in ordinary life.
There is a certain magic to the story, and it is remarkably relatable. Birth is sacred, a common denominator for all of us. And the magic of it is immersed in mystery, just as we are. The idea that Jesus was born and addressed us as one human to another is an authentic choice, a gift of presence that demonstrates the desire to journey through life with us, not above and condescending, not below and propelling. Simply WITH. This is about companionship on the journey: it is not about power or hierarchy or positioning. It is about presence, caring and compassion. It is about empathy, modeling and being. Each of the central characters: Mary, Joseph and Jesus, are conduits of support for each other, examples of grappling with the challenges life affords. A little imagination expands that very relatable situation to the miracle and magic, the sacredness of every birth and the uniqueness of the surrounding mysteries.
The secondary characters expand that whole sense of relatable. With scant information about each one, it is action which defines the connection. There are the curious and attentive shepherds who become witnesses; the enthusiastic celebration of the angels and the humble wise men. The first shows the importance of observation and purpose, movement and direction. The second opens the importance of being, simply being who we are in a given space, and the final points to the entanglement of social and political structures and even touches on the travesty of fear and hatred in the actions of Herod. The symbolism of their gifts is significant, but the example of their living out their convictions is noteworthy.
Consider the intricacy of the systems Herod devised and juxtapose that with the centuries since. Layers of economic and political systems have multiplied in the spiral of centuries since. Each has generated intricate webs that stretch into an unimagined complexity. Sophisticated technologies and the emergence of AI create illusions about the world we live in. The Christmas story anchors all of this to the most fundamental of human practices: daily choices and decisions. We live within these complicated circumstances and then are invited to become observant, attentive, responsive and humble participants in the journey of life. That is what matters.
Christmas is the reminder that each one matters. Each birth is sacred; each interaction is special. The powerless have power in the practice of integrity and the design of purpose. Systems may surround and engulf us, and we may be stumbling through as so many others have before us. Our hearts can be made whole in empathy, compassion and understanding and acceptance in spite of everything. maybe that is the magic of Christmas.