I was watching Men in Black III recently – and Griffin the alien comes up with a brilliant definition of a miracle: A miracle is something that seems impossible but happens anyway. That’s what Christmas is about: something completely impossible which happened anyway. God becomes present in and through a human being, born the normal way in a poor village in a remote province of the Roman Empire.
It’s not something that you understand better by picking it apart to see how it works. You understand Christmas by joining in – listening to the stories and letting them become part of you, so that this story becomes your story as well.
So Christians remember the stories of the wise men – foreigners, magicians, astrologers: who recognised that God was doing something extraordinary in this very ordinary village. They weren’t meant to be there. Astrology was a big no-no – it was information theft, hacking into God’s computer system to discover his secrets. But here they are – coming to worship when all the religious people who should have worked it out are panicking back in Jerusalem.
And then there are the shepherds. Not people respectable folk wanted to be near. Shepherds were unclean religiously and probably unwashed as well. You’d really want to be sure they’d had a scrub up before you shook their hand. Definitely not the ones you’d think of inviting when setting up the first ever Christmas party.
And there’s the politics: the political unrest caused by this birth, Herod the King’s anger and anxiety about a possible usurper: and so it remembered that the family of Jesus were refuges, driven away into Egypt to seek sanctuary from political violence.
Christmas means … God being recognised by those who shouldn’t know, being worshipped by those who didn’t do religion; God mixed up with politics from the very beginning. It means that the strangest, wrongest place, and time, and people were God’s choice.