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I no longer flinch when I say Merry Christmas, because it is so much more a retail holiday than a religious holiday.  Somewhere under all the gifts and wrapping and cards and pictures and cookies and trees and lights, through the stories of Santa Claus and traveling and food, lies Jesus. 

I used to do it.  Buying gifts for a dozen or more people.  Writing up to 100 cards.  Decorating the house.  Planning, searching, buying, wrapping, shipping, mailing until I couldn’t think of anything else.

One Christmas, as I was watching someone open one of those gifts I had taken so much time, effort and cost to bring to them, I imagined this person having to tend to whatever it was I bought.  No matter what the gift, there was likely to be washing, dry cleaning, polishing, dusting, moving, storing, using, or putting away to do.

I feel blessed that everyone I love has all that they need.  Every one of them has wonderful clothes to wear, blankets to keep warm, proper cooking utensils, plenty of food, gobs of books and music and video games. They lack nothing.  If you are in need of socks, or new paintbrushes, or a teeth cleaning, chances are you’re going to get them yourself.  Most of us can satisfy our own needs. Many of us have more than we’ll ever use!

But, the children, you say.  The children must have their Christmas!  Not being a parent and living that close to it, I have to say, from my observations, that children would be just fine without 500,000 toys, without the latest whatsit.  I sometimes think Christmas does far more harm than good.

It’s not that I’m against gift-giving.  On the contrary, expressing love and gratitude for someone can often be done through a specially chosen gift. But, in the middle of all the other gifts, it loses its impact.  It should be about a moment, a feeling, rather than a season.  Because it’s the Holidays and that’s what you do.  I can show I love you in so many ways.

I know, the economy needs this buying frenzy.  I remember, when I used to participate, how it became almost like an addiction as I would wonder what I was going to purchase next.  What do I have to buy today?  I know, times are tough, but then let’s be honest and say Christmas is about boosting the economy, not celebrating the birth of a Great Man/Son of God/Savior.

Personally, I’m not much of a church-goer, holiday or otherwise.  I am aware, though, that Jesus taught a lot about Love.  I wish this Holiday season was more about celebrating all the wonderful ways that Jesus showed his love. For those around him, his community, his God, everyone on the planet.  Instead of buying gifts, maybe we could find ways to let others know how much we love them, how much they’ve touched our hearts, by doing something kind for them.  What if, instead of spending all those hours and all that money buying gifts for those that don’t need anything, we put all that energy, instead, toward those who don’t have the abundance we enjoy?

But, surely, it will take a miracle.  As God said in “Conversations with God II” where He talks about politics, education and the world at large, there are plenty of changes we could make.  But in the end, it must be a change of attitude.  From the top down.  We need a new Christmas Paradigm. 

I pray for a Christmas miracle.  If we could change what we have believed about it, return to the Christian principles, look more to the rituals like our Jewish and Muslim friends also celebrating at this time of year, we might be able to give in better ways so we can love in better ways.

Everyone seems to have an opinion about how to fix the economy and what forces came together to make it happen. I’m not sure we’ll ever know for sure. But I imagine, a logical way to go about solving it would be talking to as many experts as you can (you can’t listen to everyone or you’ll go crazy and never make a decision). President Obama has talked to Republicans, consulted with Economic Experts and I’m sure he’s listened to what the media is saying, too. I trust we can all agree Barack Obama has a good mind, well-trained, the product of a fine, expensive education. I don’t know about you, but that’s the kind of mind I want on this problem.

Perhaps I don’t really know enough about politics, but at the moment anyway, what would possibly be Obama’s political agenda in this? What does he need right now? He has plenty of resources, a nearly full Congress, stacked in his favor and he’s the leader of the free world. He’s a Smart Man, he knows he has to do it. How would it be in his best interest to make things worse in this country?

There are ideological differences here. The Obama plan is about fixing things from the bottom up. And there are some who think that’s the wrong way to go about it. People are shouting he’s not changing things fast enough. Others think he’s going too far. He’s only had 6 weeks at the helm. The Washington Way has been going on a long time. It can take a while to turn the tide. Almost everyone agrees (certainly all the economists I’ve heard) that SOMETHING has to be done.

This Rush Limbaugh thing is so absurd. Sounds more like its coming from the Karl Rove play book of The Art of Distraction. (How I wish we had Al Franken commenting on all this. I pray he’s writing, while he waits.) Republicans, for the most part, are doing the talking about this, not President Obama. Why would it serve him to divert attention from what he’s doing when he’s busy changing the world one community at a time? I refer to the photo-op with the rehired police in a small community in Ohio. Not seen nearly as much as the disturbing video of Rush bopping up and down at CPAC.

Rush has become a story for the media to chew on. Put Lipstick on Limbaugh and everyone will talk about it. What we have is TV Entertainment News. (See the fabulous movie, Broadcast News with Holly Hunter, Albert Brooks and William Hurt!) I admit, I get most of my news from that very Same. I regularly watch the MSNBC night crew and never miss a Daily Show. But since they spend a lot of video on what the Right is saying, I feel I have the gist of it. Television News these days seems to distill what’s happening into neat little bits flavored with their own particular spice rub. This week’s “news cycle”, is doing nothing to solve the economic situation (desperate as usual). It’s just raising Rush Limbaugh up there with Joe the Plumber. I would so much rather hear about what’s going on with the Stimulus bill, learn more about it, hear economists debate it.

This, I suspect, is the province of Newspapers. And what about our Newspaper Crisis? To Be Continued . . .


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