Years ago I read Phillip Yancey's The Jesus I Never Knew, and it convinced me that the Hallmark version of the Christmas story we have all grown accustomed to is a little more sterile, and a little less chaotic and frightening than the accounts found in the gospels. An unwanted pregnancy, strange appearances of beings and light, and homelessness all combined for a messy series of events.
Yet I can't help but believe that for at least a few moments that night, as Mary recovered from the labor and Joseph took a break from all the logistical planning that went into raising the Son of God, there was peace. Calm. An assurance that God is most definitely with us.
An this, to me, is the great story of Christmas that we so desperately need every day of the year. The stories of the Exodus speak of a God that delivers. Revelation lets us know that God will make all things right. The epistles tell us that God's way to live is the absolute best way. But a young couple out in a field, watching the one-who-had-been-longed for sigh as he closed his eyes for his first experience of sleep, this tells of a God that is near. A God that, indeed, is with us.
If you happen to read this in the midst of time spent with your loved ones, I tell you, Merry Christmas. May we celebrate the presence of God in our midst by being fully present in the midst of each other.