very young kids hear the Christmas story for the first time, and you
then ask them what they remember most about it, they will invariably
say, “There was no room at the inn.” That looms larger than the
cute animals, the happy shepherds, the magical gifts. Kids know
what the story is really about, where it really begins — in rejection,
exclusion, humiliation. These are subjects that preoccupy very
young kids. Growing up, we tend to find ways of managing these
preoccupations, but they never leave us.
Christmas is not just about the hope renewed by the birth of a child —
it's about the ways hope is lost. If sorrow and despair don't
figure into your understanding of Christmas, the story of it won't add
up to much. Dickens' A Christmas Carol, the happiest Christmas story in post-Biblical literature precisely because it is the saddest Christmas story in post-Biblical literature, may be the best proof of that.