We sometimes think of the Christmas story as being tinged with stardust and a little magic, especially late on Christmas Day when the memory has been blended with Doctor Who and the Strictly Christmas special. And yes, there are angels and glory and and a star in the East. But the event itself is uncompromisingly ordinary. The blood and pain of childbirth, the everyday miracle of a baby's first breath, a young mum making the best of what she had in difficult circumstances.
And it is the wrapping of the Incarnation in ordinariness that makes it such a powerful challenge to the materialistic view of life. We are told that life goes on, day by day, following rules that cannot be broken. There are high points along the way, like our annual winter celebration that lifts the spirits, but they are just variations in the pattern. There is no escape from our journey from birth to death, and the stern humanists are waiting to whip us back into line if we try to lift our eyes away from that road. And so we live our ordinary lives - we eat, sleep, shop. We laugh and love, we cry and die.
How curious then, that the miracle takes place in the midst of all that. Not in a different world, but in our world, that we were told had nothing else to it. If this was a fantasy it would not be told this way. It is too plain, too commonplace. If we didn't read the rest of Luke's book, we would think that nothing happened at all.
The early church who placed Christmas at the same time as the ancient midwinter feasts did the right thing (although possibly for the wrong reasons). Christmas belongs right in the middle of the shopping, the parties, the family fun and feuds. Because the Nativity shows us that God is not afraid to get dirty. He cannot be kept sealed up in a precious heavenly dimension, even if we want him to. Our ordinary, messy and very human lives are where we meet God, just as much as in any sacred space. And in those ordinary lives we find him at work, and we find it's all right to be ordinary, because that is not all there is, after all.
God is with us. It's more than a promise, because he is.