I’m sure you’ve heard talk of the so-called War on Christmas. Some Christians complain that a spiritual holiday is becoming increasingly secular.

Who cares? Christmas went commercial a long time ago and it’s not coming back. Rather than fight this losing battle for crches in the public square, true believers can keep the spirit of the season by bringing Christian compassion and inclusion to their own families.

We’ve all been to “family” gatherings to which some members are not invited. Or maybe they’re only invited out of a sense of obligation. You know the outcasts I’m talking about: the black sheep, the prodigals and the difficult relatives. Many of us have gone through prodigal periods, or spent time as black sheep. Does this mean we’re on the “naughty list” for all time?

If we can’t forgive the flaws of family members, who can we forgive? Many of us would rather feel righteous and superior than practice the true meaning of Christmas.

As for the outcasts, it’s no wonder that some dread the family feasts. They may be shunned. They may be typecast for something they did when they were 12. They most certainly will be talked about after they leave. Merry Christmas.

(By the way, I think there should be a new family rule: siblings can’t pull birth order rank after they’ve all become adults. I think we all achieve equality at 21. But keep in mind this rule is being proposed by a fifth-born.)

I’m sure holiday mistreatment occurs in all ethnic groups. But, if I might express some ethnic pride, I think the Irish are particularly skilled at detecting insults and holding grudges. An Irish-American buddy of mine is recuperating from surgery – unvisited by three sisters, two of whom won’t talk to him. All because of a family squabble six years ago. And, if you met my friend, you’d think he was the role model for Santa Claus.

Grudges occur throughout the year but it seems particularly hypocritical during a season that celebrates rebirth, joy and forgiveness. So, I think we can start putting the “reason” back in the season by making everyone in our families feel welcome.

For example, I know a woman who opens her home every Christmas to all her siblings. She doesn’t care if they bring dishes, or presents. She has the true gift of hospitality. I applaud her for that and I’m relieved that she’s letting me come again this year.

Life is too short for exclusion, the silent treatment and the cold shoulder. And the holidays are even shorter.