I love Christmas, because it’s a holiday that celebrates the birth of a child, one of the reliably hopeful events in a wicked and horrific world, bringing a message of joy and peace in spite of all.

But the context of the Christmas story is very grim. It involves a mother forced to give birth in a barn because there’s no room for her at the local inn. It’s followed soon by a massacre of infants by the crazed king of the region, fearful that one of those infants will grow up to depose him. The child born in the barn will instead grow up to be murdered for no good reason by another set of tyrants, deposing temporal authority only metaphorically.

Christmas is not a time to forget the horrors of the world.  It’s a time to be cheerful in the face of the world’s horrors — in the face of the Sandy Hook murders, and the drone strikes that kill little children in far-off lands, whose funerals are not covered by CNN, and the cowardice and meanness of our leaders.  It is a defiance of all those things — just as the birth of a child is a defiance of all those things.

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