Cheer Up — It's Christmas!

The year 2008 is when things got totaled up, bills were presented, and markers called. We close the year hearing stories of staggering corruption, fraud, and mismanagement on the economic front, and in a social climate so broad-minded it allows every identity group to call itself "victim" and commence whining.

You can count on one hand the folks who feel contentment or hope these days and still have five fingers left.

Into this tumult arrives Christmas, and so convulsed is society that the season can find only a grudging welcome made by a distracted people. Christmas is costly in uncertain times. It is religious, when the "sophisticated" world is post-belief. Christmas is one more thing to feel victimized about, no matter who you are.

And it is so much damned work, too.

But then there is the story, and it has something for everyone.

An angel sent by God proposes an outrageous venture to a virgin Jewess who -- at some personal risk -- agrees to play her indispensable part. A quiet carpenter is enlisted to protect her and she is off -- first to visit a cousin who is having a bit of an adventure of her own, what with her priest-husband suddenly struck mute and her aged womb alive with a rambunctious prophet. He makes his first pronouncement in utero, and the young Jewess launches into one of the greatest songs ever written. Then a census is called; heads must be counted so that taxes may be levied. The carpenter and his young wife travel by rough road to an obscure town, where they discover that obscure towns surrounded by bad roads are generally short on lodgings. They put up in a cave where, surrounded by oxen and asses, the woman gives birth to a son. She lays him in the manger, the food bin. In the starlit night, angels appear for a big musical number with a timely message: peace on Earth. There are shepherds and astrologers and even a king, but he's a cynic.