*Stevie Wonder’s “I Wish” isn’t a Christmas song, but the opening verse of that musical tribute to childhood reminds us of the true spirit of the season.  Stevie sings:

Lookin’ back on when I was a little, nappy-headed boy

When my only worry was for Christmas what would be my toy

Even though we sometimes would not get a thing

We were happy with the joy the day would bring!

Simple, comforting words for troubled times.

Unemployment remains high – over 9% nationally.  Despite their best efforts many Americans simply cannot find work – and a lot of people who have jobs are nonetheless struggling to make ends meet.  In addition to that, some people comfortable circumstances are showing an increased impatience and lack of compassion toward those who are struggling.  Republicans in Congress repeatedly opposed extending unemployment benefits because, like Ebenezer Scrooge, they disdainfully dismiss the poor and jobless as “idle.”  Of course, those same Republicans demanded that millionaires get an income tax reduction, even though it will add $700 billion to the federal deficit.

So, for countless families life continues to be a struggle.  Money’s funny, change is strange and a lot of parents are feeling guilty because they can’t provide the presents their kids want for Christmas. But there is no greater gift than the blessing of love, family and friendship and that’s what Stevie Wonder was singing about.

The Grinch learned that lesson from the folks he tried to harm. Dr. Seuss’ green-furred villain stole everything out of Who-ville.  All the presents, all the decorations, all the food.  And yet, when the sun came up on Christmas Day, all the Whos down in Who-ville, the tall and the small, went outside, joined hands and lifted their voices in a song of joy and gratitude.  A touching line in that song proclaims:  “Christmas Day is in our grasp so long as we have hands to clasp.”  Holding hands, drawing close to one another, sharing love and friendship, offering encouragement, comforting and consoling one another… this is what makes Christmas meaningful.

We find even deeper solace in spirit of Christmas reflected in the soothing words of one of our most time-honored Christmas carols:

God rest ye merry gentlemen.  Let nothing you dismay

Remember, Christ our savior was born on Christmas Day

To save us all from Satan’s power, when we were gone astray

Oh, tidings of comfort and joy!

This song empowers us to be brave and confident in the face of adversity.  “Let nothing you dismay” because no matter what the world throws at us, we can handle it, we can get through and triumph in difficult days because God, the creator of the universe, loves us and is always close by, ready to strengthen us with comfort and joy even in the worst of times!

The writer Earl Hamner, Jr. captured that spirit in The Homecoming, the classic TV movie that inspired the long-running series The Waltons.  The epilogue to that Depression-era drama is beautiful:  “Christmas is a season when we give tokens of love.  In that house we gave not tokens but love itself.”

Merry Christmas and thanks for listening.  I’m Cameron Turner and that’s my two cents.

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