As much as Christmas is celebrated here, I think we have lost sight of it's significance. Why does Christmas matter? Isn't it really a minor holiday made to replace the pagan birthday of the sun god in Romans times and co-opted by Santa Claus and shopping in our own time? Looking at the media you would get the idea that Christmas is about childhood excitement, family, wonder, warmth, lights, songs, presents... and those are are great things. I'm really looking forward to sharing all that wonder and thrill with my little boy.
But there is something deeper still that happened in a manger long ago. A homeless unwed teenage girl gave birth to God incarnate. Christmas is about the Incarnation, and every understanding of the cross and of our salvation and hope is ultimately rooted in the Incarnation. Anselm's famous treaty was called "Why God became Human" (Cur Deus Homo). Likewise Irenaeus' Recapitulation is about how "God became what we are so we could become what he is". Every major theory of the Atonement is rooted in the idea of God come among us, in humility, taking on our weakness, sorrow, and needfulness.
That is what Christmas is about. The day that God came among us in weakness. Seeing that when God comes among us he does not come as a powerful domination ruler, but in the form of a little child. Christmas is about God turning all of our expectations of what power, glory, and holiness are about upside-down. It's about how God entered into all of our helplessness and need. It's about finding God in the middle of our ordinary nitty gritty lives. It's about hope in a gray world.