There are a lot of things in life, in our society, and in our personal lives that we wish were different. No matter what the circumstances, we can always find room for improvement. Despite our best attempts at self-analysis and willingness to admit we are not perfect, we generally believe that the world would be better off if more people were like us…because, as imperfect as we may be, we can see how we’re better off than many others. But, then we are reminded:

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Luke 18:9-14).

One of the toughest things we’ve had to deal with over the last year is the fact that, no matter what our political orientation, there are roughly half of our fellow citizens that don’t agree with us. In fact, some of them vehemently disagree with us! How could they? Doesn’t everyone see the sense…the wisdom even…of our point of view? What the hell is wrong with people?

Sound familiar?

As I settle into the holiday season, my family and I will be breaking out our favorite old Christmas movies. We find great comfort in watching those films we have been enjoying our whole lives. Two of the best are “The Bishop’s Wife” (1947) and “White Christmas” (1954). Interestingly enough, there are political references in both movies that remind me that politics and conflict have always been a part of American life…even at Christmas time. If Cary Grant and Bing Crosby took note of those difficulties back then, I guess the problems of today aren’t all that unique.

So some people cringe over a bold, “Merry Christmas!” It’s not my worry and you can expect to hear it from me on occasion over the next month. It’s what I do and it’s what my family and friends like this time of year. If Christmas carols grate on your nerves, change the radio station. If the manger in the neighbor’s yard annoys you, turn your head. It’ll only be there a couple weeks, and then things will go back to the same ol’ boring atheistic, secular humdrum. Meanwhile, the biggest Grinch can find something to enjoy around the celebration of Christ’s birth. Even a piece of coal found in a stocking can feed a fire. If nothing else, be glad if you’re not among those who are looking at empty chairs at their dinner table this year.

So make of the season what you will. It’s yours to enjoy…or ignore. I’ll pray for you, either way.