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As we together enjoy a holiday marked by family, friends and faith, we turn to some familiar passages to find both cheer and comfort.

I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time … as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore … though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!”– Charles Dickens, “A Christmas Carol”

It’s been a challenging year. Detroit emerged from the cloud of bankruptcy, the state grappled with how to continue to improve its economy and fix its ailing schools and roads, and the nation now confronts a reinvigorated threat of terrorism at home and abroad, among other problems.

Americans’ view of race relations is at a two-decade low, the national debt continues to skyrocket, and political parties and ideologies are warring with each other more than usual.

But Charles Dickens’ sentiments in “A Christmas Carol” still ring true. His emphasis on trying to find the good in all people, no matter how challenging, is as applicable to 21st-century America as it was to 19th-century England.

Dickens’ eloquent words remind us that, in the end, we really are just “fellow passengers to the grave.” We all struggle, accomplish and strive together, and face the problems — which affect us in different ways — together.

“Dear George, remember no man is a failure who has friends.” That line is from another holiday classic, Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and captures the spirit of the season by focusing on the importance of friends and family above all else, and the real value of simply being alive.

It is the message Clarence the angel leaves for George Bailey at the end of their journey together.

It’s the right time to remember that sentiment, and a good time to allow the better parts of our nature to be inspired to action.

It’s the time of year to put others first, and reach out to the communities that surround us all, challenging each other to always strive to be better than the day before.

Finally, we turn to the biblical story of Jesus’ birth, and the celebratory message from the gospel of Luke.

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field,keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you;Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

The admonition to “be not afraid” is particularly apt this season, when the world seems such a frightful place. We must cling to the promises of peace and goodwill, and keep striving to achieve them.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

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