This year, perhaps more so than in any other in recent memory, people can relate to the desperation of Mary and Joseph as they searched frantically for shelter on the eve of Jesus' birth.
No assets, poor, and completely dependent on the generosity of others, they came to rest in a stable, beaten back by the harsh realities of even the small town of Bethlehem.
As the economy continues to weigh heavily on households — lost jobs, cut hours, lost health insurance — and with little hope for improvement in the near term, more and more people have had to settle into their own stables and accept the humility and frustrations that come with it.
It's the range of impact that makes it all so staggering. For some, the ongoing economic doldrums have forced them into homelessness — completely dependent on others for the most basic needs. For others, it has meant fewer of everything: gifts, luxuries, meals out.
And then there are those who've lost their homes to foreclosure, or are treading water, barely holding onto the debt string of a maxed out credit card and the paycheck that never seems to come quick enough.
But on this day, with many a scaled-back Christmas gift mound, we can take solace in knowing that it is a shared experience — shared among friends and family whose bonds trump any sort of economic calamity, and shared among complete strangers too proud to admit it.
Thousands of years ago, Mary and Joseph settled into their own stable, giving birth to one of the most inspiring and powerful spiritual leaders in human history. They were surrounded by barn animals and noblemen alike — a motley crew whose story went on to affect the world in a profound way.
Out of a humble stable, our own hope may still be born.