The world does not come to a full stop just because it is Christmas week, although it would be nice if it did.

We all need a respite from the constant barrage of less than good news from around the world and around the corner. We should all be able to celebrate the holidays in peace and harmony with friends and family.

Let politicians in Washington continue to debate and argue; let the world scratch their heads over the future of North Korea. Here in Keizer and Oregon we will observe the holidays in familiar ways. All the Christmas events are just about completed with the exception of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services. This weekend families will gather to exchange gifts and enjoy homemade feasts featuring traditional recipes.

Those who are less fortunate in our community will not face a dark holiday. The Keizer Network of Women, the Keizer Elks Lodge, the Miracle of Lights in Gubser and other organizations have gathered and distributed thousands and thousands of pounds of food. Some of these organizations have also collected toys and clothes for those children in our community who otherwise would find a figurative lump of coal in their Christmas stocking.

At this time of year, especially after the year we’ve had in 2011, we need to put away contentious political issues and selfish motives. This is the time of year to look past ourselves, offer a warm greeting or a smile to those we meet. Though some may prefer the innocuous “Happy holidays” greeting over “Merry Christmas,” that issue should not be fraught with ideological contention.

We don’t say “Happy Spring Day” at Easter.  Easter is Easter and Christmas is Christmas, it says so on the calendar. It is akin to renaming Tuesday because someone may find offense.  Today you can find somebody to be offended by anything and everything.

But it is just such disagreements that need to be set aside.  You say ‘holiday,’ I say ‘Christmas.’ Can’t we just mark the season without turning it into verbal warfare?

Whether one celebrates Christmas, Chanukah or nothing at all, this is the time to embrace joy, grace and giving. Too many of us look upon the holidays as a chore; many boast of finishing their shopping months earlier.  Many endure the traditions of the Christmas season with a resigned shrug when the payoff would be better if those traditions-—decorating, caroling, shopping, wrapping, cooking—were enjoyed.

Christmas has morphed into a day for the children. Millions of families will attend church services and observe the birth of Christ; at the same time millions of children will spend a restless Christmas Eve night, trying to stay awake to hear the bells on nine reindeer. Christmas is alive in the hearts and minds of the children who find that Santa did indeed come down the chimney, finding beautifully bowed gifts under the tree with their name on them.

Christmas isn’t just one thing.  It is not only presents.  It is not only church services or midnight Masses. It is not only Santa Claus. It is not only gift exchanges. It is all of those things and more.

The staff of the Keizertimes will be celebrating the holiday near and far with their families and friends. And we’ll remember that it is better to give than to receive. And it’s best to give to those less fortunuate who should be able to have a Christmas.

Merry Chistmas, Keizer.

-—LAZ