By Joe Rector

Well, it’s here. Little ones thought the time would never come; some adults wished it hadn’t. Either way, Christmas is upon us. The year has been a tough one for us, but in spite of the bad, something magical occurs when this time of year arrives. Our challenges in life are many, but maybe we have a way of dealing with them a bit better.

The weather has made life more than a little unpleasant for millions. Drought in California made wildfires all the more destructive. Snows along the east coast during the first of the year posed problems for residents, something we who live in the south can’t even imagine. The yearly crop of tornadoes swept across areas of the country and wiped out communities and smashed many dreams.

Guns still continued to cause consternation and polarize people in this country. Approximately 270 million guns are owned by people in the US. If things keep going, before long we’ll have as many guns as people in the country (319 million in 2014). The fight goes on every time another mass shooting jolts us. One side says the time has come to stop the sales of assault weapons and to demand stricter laws on the possession of firearms. The other side dares anyone to put restrictions on guns and cites the 2nd amendment as their battle cry. All the while, more guns are sold, and too often the wrong people get their hands on them and commit unspeakable acts that leave us stunned and confused.

Terrorism has reached new heights of absurdity and brutality. Al Qaeda attacked 15 years ago and scared us as we realized that our country no longer was out of reach of our enemies. Now, ISIS has reared its satanic head to spread pure evil, along with fear and destruction, in an effort to drag the US into a war. We fret about again sending young men to the desert to fight an enemy whose only goal is to kill as many as possible with whatever weapon they can get their hands on. The smartest bet is to establish a fighting army comprised of soldiers from countries in the immediate area who stand to lose everything to that murdering bunch.

Politics cranked up this year in preparation for the next presidential election. Already the GOP has sponsored several debates, and the Democrats have also held a couple. What seems to be most obvious is that the candidates are long on talk but short on common sense. They’ve managed to whip up emotions with one-liners and promises that they can’t keep. Many individuals already suffer from political fatigue as the never-ending commercials and news reports are dumped on them.

So, Christmas is here, and even in spite of all the bad things that have occurred, it is a time that brings out the best in folks. We’re a little kinder, more patient, and loving. We take deep breaths and just enjoy the company of others and the festivities that come with the time. Families gather for the special day, and more important than the presents or the food is just being together.

I know that some people don’t agree with my take on Christmas and Christianity, and I respect their viewpoints. My heart goes out to those who have no belief in a power higher than themselves. It is faith in God and a belief that we are not alone that makes even the toughest thing easier to bear. During this season, I plan to ask the good Lord to guide us and our leaders so that we can make wise decisions that lead us to safety, security, and peace. We can find comfort in the things that Jesus taught us and asked of us.

I wish you and your families the best Christmas possible. Please say a prayer for the less fortunate and for peace in this world. For those who practice the faith, know that our hope began with the Christmas season and the birth of Emanuel. Let that guide you throughout the years of your life.

Merry Christmas! Thank you for allowing me the chance to write something that might strike a chord with you in some way.