Another excerpt from Letters to a Young Doubter, William Sloan Coffin:
…a sentimentalized Christmas is so much worse than a commercialized one.
The obvious answer is that the latter never pretends to be anything else. Sentimentality, however, does not arise from the truth; it’s what’s poured on top, blurring and distorting the truth…
Now consider the Christmas crèche. The baby lies in the manger because no one in the inn would make room for a pregnant woman. The ox and the ass are not picturesque guests who just had to come and see; this is their home. The Christmas truth is that he who was to be the bread of life for human beings is laid in the feed box of animals.
At the beginning as at the end of Christ’s life, God comes off wonderfully. We do not. The inhumanity, as we used to say, “of man to man” is exceeded only by man’s inhumanity to God. That’s why I think God is not too hard to believe in, just too good to believe in, we being strangers to such goodness.