Popular culture’s vision of Christmas generally misses the challenging nature of the story of Christmas. It’s much nicer and safer to simple sing platitudes of peace on earth before turning to the celebration of acquiring more and more stuff and seeking a higher spot on the pyramid of power. But from time to time, there are glimpses of Christmas that challenge the passions in our society to make distinctions between people, to judge one’s worth by the size of one’s pile of stuff, and to raise up the rich at the expense of the poor.

In 1999, Aaron Sorkin and Rick Cleveland got it right on The West Wing, in the episode “In Excelsis Deo.” The music, the direction, and the editing brilliantly captured what I believe lies at the heart of the Christmas story. Whether we share a common understanding of this story or not, I pray that we can share a vision of a mutual partnership that raises up the lowly, that feeds the hungry, that embraces the stranger, that welcomes the outcast, and that works for peace.