The tree downstairs in the living room is beautiful. Amy worked until after midnight wrapping the last of the gifts and getting everything in shape for family to arrive this afternoon.

Some fifty years ago, I would have scrambled down the steps in the pre-dawn hours, trying to beat my five other brothers and sisters to the tree to dive into the boxes and discover the joys that lay inside the wrapping.

I’m older now and 59-year-old men with arthritic knees and bones held together with pins and screws don’t scamper down steps. They wait for the pain meds and muscle relaxants to kick in so they can lumber down at a more reasonable pace.

But the den is on the second floor and I can sit at the computer and try to write something suitable for the season. Christmas is supposed to be a time for joy and sharing and celebrating "peace on earth" and "good will towards men."

Peace on earth? No much of that going around. Four more Americans died in Iraq on Christmas Eve, bringing the total ever closer to 3,000 in a war where solutions get lost in the fog of political expediency.

Good will towards men? Not bloody likely. You won’t find much good will between nations who talk openly of killing or even here at home where politicians strive for power at any costs and sports teams brag of domination and intimidation of opponents.

In department stores, angry mothers fight over the last Sony Playstation or Nintendo Wiii game consoles. Fistfights erupt in checkout lines and a one man gunned down another on Christmas Eve in an argument over a parking spot at a shopping mall.

We can’t celebrate Christmas without controversy. In Seattle, a rabbi wants a menorah displayed during the season at Sea-Tac Airport and the knee-jerk reaction by authorities is to yank all Christmas trees from the facility. Communities ban nativity displays because they mix "church and state." Stores replace "Merry Christmas" with "Happy Holidays" to avoid angering non-Christians. Other stores ban the Salvation Army charity pots from their front doors. Too religious, they say.

A Jewish friend of mine has long dealt with such secularism by sending out a card each year with the Star of David on the front and a message inside that reads: "Merry Christmas…fools!" It is a bit of humor sorely needed in a world where people kill in the name of God and declare jihads based on a misinterpretation of the teachings of their faith.

Such chances to laugh come sparingly in today’s tension-filled world. Christmas should be a chance to celebrate and remember a special event that is central to us who base our faith on the birth of Christ.

Instead, it is – at best – a brief respite from a world gone mad. The best we can hope for is a few hours of calm away from the nastiness.

With that in mind, Merry Christmas from all of us here at Capitol Hill Blue. May we make the best of the holiday season and find a way to celebrate in spite of the tension, hate and violence that surrounds us.

And may we all pray that, one day soon, we can celebrate the season with true joy, real peace on earth and honest good will towards all.

Doug Thompson published his first story and photo at age 11 -- a newspaper article about racism and the Klan in Prince Edward County, VA, in 1958. From that point on, he decided to become a newspaperman and did just that -- reporting news and taking photos full-time at his hometown paper, becoming the youngest full-time reporter at The Roanoke Times in Virginia in 1965 and spent most of the past 55+ years covering news around the country and the globe. After a short sabbatical as a political operative in Washington in the 1980s, he returned to the news profession in 1992. Today, he is a contract reporter/photojournalist for BHMedia and owns Capitol Hill Blue and other news websites.

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