There are two Christmas stories in the Gospels, one by Luke and the other one by Matthew.
The one by Luke is the story we are most familiar with: baby in a manger wrapped in swaddling clothes, a chorus of angels, shepherds awoken from their sleep by the heavenly sights and sounds. It is a story of hope and joy, of a light shining in the darkness, of a warm comforting glow on a wintry night.
The other Christmas story by Matthew is dark, gloomy and even depressing. It starts with the genealogy of Jesus. While there were heroes and great men among the ancestors of Jesus, there were almost an equal number of heels and scoundrels. The genealogy mentions about five women, most of whom had a colorful and shady past. Even before the birth of the baby, Joseph had in mind to divorce Mary to spare her some shame. When the baby born, there were no angels singing nor shepherds visiting to adore him. Rather, there was King Herod who wanted to have him killed. Already. So, the Holy Family had to flee to Egypt to seek refuge. They were refugees, fugitives from the King. And when they returned, they settled in Nazareth. Apparently they could not return to Bethlehem. This story is dreary compared to the peace and joy in Luke’s gospel.
The Christmas story is also our story. We still live with oppression and persecutions. Refugees, immigrants, displaced persons are still among the burning issues of today. Blatant use of naked power to intimidate, subdue, and coerce people is still acceptable in many places. Even in those places where you wouldn’t expect it. Like in those times, people are still hoping and pining for peace, joy, and a taste of heaven.
When God became man, he fully inserted himself into the human condition. He promised us eternal life; but he also asked that we be ready to take up the cross. We wait in hope that we will be able to bear the cross so that we eventually come into eternal life.