The holidays are a time for gathering with friends and family in dining rooms and kitchens, taking a step back from the whirlwind of life and work. Many will reassess, pray or meditate at places of worship, at home, or in a car stuck in traffic on the way to an aunt or uncle’s house. As we gather, we discuss the year gone by and the year ahead.
This was a year of fear and flight: bookended by two attacks in Paris, the latter of which, a horrifying terrorist assault that resulted in 130 deaths, reminded us of the violence wreaking havoc in parts of the world where TV cameras turn only briefly.
And it was a year of motion — with more than a million refugees, many of them from Syria and other areas destabilized by the Islamic State and civil war, making their way to Europe, where they were met with both open arms and closed doors. Thus far, the open arms largely won out.
In America, where we pride ourselves on being a land of opportunity, we were affected by global instability as well. A terrorist attack in San Bernardino brought home the threat of jihadi extremism and signaled the danger of ISIS ideology in an interconnected world.
The response to world events by presidential candidates and some state governors was dispiriting: from a singular call to ban all Muslims from entering the country to the attempted barring of refugees, even young children, from gaining sanctuary here.
On this Christmas Eve, let’s embrace a more hopeful vision. Let us acknowledge the safety we and our families enjoy, stand firmly against terrorism here and abroad — and avoid casual fearmongering. As we gather for meals, relaxation or services, let’s draw on the spirit of our many holidays this time of year to recognize the poor, the needy, those who have been turned away. Let’s appreciate the values of home and togetherness and keep our doors open and our tables set, in true holiday spirit, for people who need it the most.