For me, Christmas is a time for reflection and gratitude, a time of celebration and worship. It is a time that we give gifts to commemorate the birth of Jesus.
Christmas is a time of reflection for my family, too. We laugh about Christmases past, share gifts and smiles in the present, and share hope for what's to come in the future. That future is embodied in our children, so the gifts are often for them.
However, this Christmas, as my wife and I endeavor to give my children the gifts they desire, I'm going to do something different. I'm going to request a gift of my own.
This Christmas, I'd like a day of honesty.
This Christmas, when the winter snow that once fell in cities like Philadelphia is replaced by springlike temperatures, I'd like us to acknowledge that global warming is a reality. Then I'd like us to put aside our petty political bickering in order to figure out how to save our greatest gift - the Earth.
This Christmas, when Christians like myself celebrate the birth of Jesus, I'd like us to acknowledge that Jesus ministered to people who were not like him and commanded us to do the same. After we acknowledge that, let's call out the racism and prejudice that infects our places of worship. Let's acknowledge the bigotry that poisons our public discourse.
Let's not limit ourselves to condemning the hateful statements of politicians like Donald Trump, who has gleefully stereotyped women and Mexicans and Muslims. Let's also examine our own preconceptions about others. Only then can we begin to have the conversations that will move us toward the peace on Earth we speak about at this time of year.
This Christmas, when economists tell us to quantify the holiday by examining sales figures, let's acknowledge that far too many Americans have little or nothing to spend.
Further, let's admit that feeling left out at Christmas is about more than material poverty. There is also the emotional poverty that comes with the lack of family and friends, and the spiritual poverty of reducing a religious holiday to the exchange of material things.
When we admit those truths, maybe more of us will reach out to those who are too poor to participate in the traditions that have come to define Christmas. Maybe, if we admit those truths, we can give something more valuable than things.
But if I am to truly receive the gift of honesty this Christmas, it would have to extend beyond perceptions and poverty. It would also involve examining our politics.
This Christmas, when the next bout of name-calling erupts between those who believe they should lead this country, we must stop listening long enough to tell the truth.
We must acknowledge that we relish their rudeness. We must confess that we are more interested in reality-show shenanigans than policy discussions. We must admit that it is not just our politicians who have fallen to new depths. It is all of us.
That is why I so desperately want the gift of honesty. Not just for myself, but for all of us.
If all of us could just be honest with ourselves for a single day, we could raise the level of discourse, change the tone of the discussion and emerge from our ideological corners spouting answers instead of animosity. Then on Christmas we could give each other the one gift that truly matters: the truth.
I'll be waiting with bated breath to see if I receive the gift I've requested.
But if, perchance, that gift is not beneath the tree Christmas Day, I'll do what I've always done. I'll enjoy my friends and family, sing of peace and hope, revel in my children's smiles and reflect on the meaning of my faith.
Then I'll look around at a world that desperately needs the truth, and I'll pray for a day of honesty next year.