Christmas 2004 is celebrated during a bitter and contentious time in our state and nation's history. Overcoming a collective bad mood takes individual effort. The best part, of...

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Christmas 2004 is celebrated during a bitter and contentious time in our state and nation’s history. Overcoming a collective bad mood takes individual effort.

The best part, of course, is Christmas does not end until Epiphany on Jan. 6. Those who observe the holiday have lots more time to get it right.
All the civic skirmishing over Christian displays on public property is wonderfully off the point as an expression of national piety. Religious values take a backseat to pushing and shoving over turf.

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People otherwise deeply suspicious of government suddenly get agitated by the idea of those poor, selfless civil servants being denied a Christmas tree at the Department of Motor Vehicles. The DMV is the place to get license tabs renewed, not to seek expressions of religious faith or some tinseled version of holiday cheer.

For a logical extension of government space as divine diorama, look no farther than Bartow, Fla. Polk County commissioners voted 4-1 to surround a Nativity scene with all manner of seasonal displays, including the “Seinfeld”-inspired Festivus.

Christmas is not rescued, saved or made more precious by responding with reproductions of the Ten Commandments hanging in courtrooms.

Here is an entirely more radical view. Strike a blow for the power of one’s religious faith by living its values with purposeful dedication that radiates its own message.

Christ is described as the Light of the world, but in the book of Matthew, Jesus lobs that notion back across the net; “You are the light of the world.” The plain challenge is to shine so others may see your good deeds.

Our intent this day is not to round up a busload of people for Heaven, but the latent power of people suddenly deciding, say, to forgive someone who wronged them is dazzling.

Suppose others lowered the emotional volume of dealings with family and coworkers. An astute observer we know is struck by how angry everyone seems. Though the rage is unfocused and an inch deep, the hostility still has the venom to poison lives.

The United States is not and must never become a “my religion is better than your religion” culture. The beauty of America’s religious tradition is that only those who choose to believe need observe and celebrate the season.

This value — tested and better understood since 9/11 — is rooted in the religious freedom espoused by Thomas Jefferson, not in the it’s-OK-for-now implications of religious tolerance.

Left wide open is the opportunity for the individual to shine. Try filling the rest of Christmas with a radiant, personal light and see what happens the rest of the year.