By Joe Rector

I hope your Christmas shopping is finished and that it has been successful. Nothing can ruin this holiday more than being unable to find the one thing that your child wants the most from Santa Claus. A close second in disappointment is a husband’s giving his wife something utilitarian instead of extravagant.

Christmas Day is drawing closer. It’s easy to tell. The parking lots at stores and malls aren’t overflowing, a sure sign that most folks have completed their shopping. Unlike the rest of the year, a trip to the mall can be a pleasant experience. Most folks are a bit more patient as they stand in line to pay for items. The clerks also are more polite and willing to help worn-out customers, especially ones dragging small children with them. Parents are more likely to allow their little ones time to look at toys and other things they have asked Santa to bring.

Even drivers are filling up on Christmas spirit. They don’t arrive at stores ready for combat. Sometimes, a motorist allows another to take the empty spot; some drivers allow cars that have zoomed forward in the other lane to beat others to merge. When they stop to allow pedestrians to cross, they do so with a smile and a wave.

At church the other day, the minister made reference to past Christmases and presents. The sanctuary brightened with smiles as people’s minds recalled that one item that seemed so important all those years ago. Nods were followed by longing looks into the past and the good things with family and friends that occurred.

Many people will allow Christmas to pass with little thought given. Their lives are in such messes that the last thing they can feel is a sense of “peace on earth and goodwill toward men.” Of course, it’s difficult to have a warm feeling for the day when food is in short supply or when the home is a car or a cheap motel room. Little children’s dreams are crushed on Christmas morning when nothing is left under the tree. Families filled with violence rarely have any feelings of cheer. For Christmas, boys and girls want parents to get along and love each other; they don’t want the constant threat of violence for Christmas presents.

We’re into the third year of a pandemic. People claim their rights to not be vaccinated, while others declare that those who oppose shots have no right to endanger family members. It’s for sure that no one, even anti-vaxxers, wants the Delta or omicron variant for a present this year. Still, until enough individuals get the vaccine, all of our holidays and vacations are darkened with the chance of falling ill or even dying from this pandemic.

We live in uncertain times. Politically, socially, and medically, Americans can’t be sure what disaster will befall next. I’m guilty of having a negative outlook on all three. Still, when I give myself just a breath’s time to recall the reason for Christmas, hope and comfort and happiness return. I am convinced that we can become a united country again when our minds put first others who are in need of help, whether that aid comes in the form of food, money, counseling, or love.

When the chance comes, watch the movie “Scrooged.” Bill Murray’s character is America personified. Let us hope as we celebrate the coming of the Great I Am that our hearts and minds are filled with the knowledge that we can once again find the greatness of our country and of the one who came to lead us.