The smell of incense caught my attention, reminding me of all the Catholic masses I had attended as a girl. The fragrance invited me to enter in to this Posada as a sacred space as we moved together through the street, reliving the journey of Mary and Joseph in the middle of downtown LA.

I was struck by the chorus of the song we were singing…”Caminemos a Belén. Caminemos con Maria”. We walk to Bethlehem. We walk with Mary. What a sense of rejection this young woman must have experienced, seeking shelter as a vulnerable, pregnant wife. I felt compelled to stay in that moment, pouring my own hurts and rejections of the year into the story of Christmas.

It was a moment that made me realize that the Christmas story is really a narrative of varied emotions. There is rejection, pain, angelic joy, worship, and even grief mixed in to the first few chapters of Matthew and Luke. In the walk around Olvera street re-enacting the journey of the poor couple, pregnant with the divine, I stepped into this Christmas season offering my own journey as a way to connect more deeply with the story that has shaped all my stories since. While I was taught as a child that Christmas was about a celebration of the birth of Jesus, the more life I’ve lived, the more I’ve wondered what people do with all the brokenness they feel during the holiday. How do they handle disappointment and loss? Pain and heartache? Where do these fit in the season of Christmas?

But there as I walked the streets of Olvera, I remembered that the Christmas story is big enough and deep enough to hold all our journey. Jesus, King of the Jews, was born in a stable — on the margins of society as an infant and as light to a dark and hostile world.

There were angels proclaiming his incredible birth in the skies to unimportant shepherds. There were magi from afar seeking to find him to worship him. There was an anxious king who with murder and fear in his voice, ordered the death of innocent children. They were to become our first martyrs.

So whatever we bring this season to Christmas, I find comfort in knowing the story of Jesus’ birth has room for all of it. For the mothers whose cries rise up this season as “Rachel weeping for her children”, the story of Jesus runs deep enough to carry you. For those who live on the outskirts of their worlds, rejected and unseen, this beautiful story was first revealed to you.

So whatever we bring this season to Christmas, I find comfort in knowing the story of Jesus’ birth has room for all of it.

There is immense joy in the narrative of Jesus’ birth — the inauguration of the kingdom coming. But until the world is made right and all that is broken is made new, I’m so grateful that Jesus can hold within his own birth story all our own sadness and longing we experience this side of that coming Kingdom.

May we await the Savior holding together these truths.