We never tire of the story.
A woman, a man, a dusty road, a gentle donkey. An innkeeper with no room but a heart for strangers in his midst. Angels with news. Shepherds who wonder. Wise men who follow a star.
Why are we drawn to this rough-hewn manger? What keeps Christians pondering, year upon year, the familiar words from Luke spoken from the pulpit, recited by children arrayed in Christmas pageant robes, even narrated by Linus, a Peanuts character who stands alone in the circle of a spotlight?
Why, on this bright Christmas morning, do we see hope amid despair, love among the ruins? Is it the mother, brave and filled with wonder? The father, trusting and kind, but alert to danger? The baby, so achingly innocent and so vulnerable?
We are burdened as they were burdened in their time, by wars and poverty, illness and death, the cruelty of sudden, unfathomable violence.
Amid this backdrop of human pathos, the angels tell us: Rejoice!
The theologian Vernard Eller said of this: Our perspective on Christmas should not be significantly different from that of Lukes story. Like first century Christians, we remain in anticipation.
Ours is a promissory joy just like theirs; indeed, it is joy in beholding the coming of the same promise.
A promissory note of joy. Joy yet to be fulfilled. Easter and the resurrection, the ultimate Christian promise, will come, but on this day, we simply rest in the joy and peace of the manger.
Fear not! For behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people, for unto you is born this day in the city of David, a savior, who is Christ the Lord.