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STEVE SEBELIUS: Find the merry in a world of bah, humbug!

OK, people. Now you can start decorating for Christmas.

I’m an old-school traditionalist who believes we should embrace the advent season only after we’ve digested the remains of the Thanksgiving season, and on this, I realize I’m an outlier.

Retail stories have had Christmas paraphernalia up since the last echoes of fireworks faded on the Fourth of July. Some unfortunate radio stations have played Christmas music exclusively for weeks now (hello, Chipmunks, barking dogs and the interminable Paul McCartney standard). A group of 80 marauding shoplifters even started their holidays early, invading a Walnut Creek Nordstrom to make off with Christmas treasure. (Too soon, marauders! Too soon!)

Yes, I’m a grinch. A Scrooge, even. And I’ve yet to meet even one, let alone three, ghosts.

It’s not that I don’t welcome Christmas, even though we’re always Doing It Wrong. The gift-giving tradition began when three Magi from the East brought the infant Jesus gold, frankincense and myrrh after following a bright star to Bethlehem. Now, we give gifts to each other, and retailers collect the gold while selling myrrh-scented candles in pricey catalogues.

Maybe it’s the times.

We’ve senseless killings, punished and unpunished. There’s a spike in inflation that drives up prices for everything. (Soon payday lenders will be setting up kiosks at gas stations, alongside the smog check guy.) Santa’s sleigh is anchored off the California coast, waiting to unload into the Port of Long Beach, in part because of a shortage of his big-rig truck driving helpers.

There are political divisions so deep that Joe Biden could cure cancer and save a baby from a burning building but still be criticized in an overwrought fundraising email the next day that warns about donating before the MID-MONTH FUNDRAISING DEADLINE!

There are real racial divisions in America sowing distrust and suspicion among fellow Americans, not to mention hustlers who seek to exploit those divisions for their own advancement. There are mobs of Twitter warriors prowling the internet, seeking politically incorrect people whom they may devour.

And that’s not even to mention Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s complete inability to bring a truce in the never-ending War on Christmas. Who knows what will be left behind when we withdraw from that one?

It’s tough to get into the spirit of the holidays. But it’s not impossible.

We live in a great country, a land of freedom so desirable that people wait in line for years to come, some risking their lives walking thousands of miles or sailing unseaworthy rafts across shark-infested waters. They hand their children to U.S. Marines over razor-wire fences so those infants have a chance at a better life.

Although we often disagree with each other, we are fortunate to live alongside hardworking and patriotic fellow citizens, including and especially those who volunteer to help in the worst of times: firefighters, police officers, doctors, nurses, military members past and present and their families. Even many of those who protest this country seek to make it better, to live up to its ideals.

We live in a land of plenty in a nation and a world where many go without. We lead the world in helping, with medical care and disaster relief and food for the hungry.

Yes, there are many reasons not to feel thankful, many crass commercializations of the season that seek to take our eyes away from that Bethlehem manger. But there are also many things we can choose to consider instead, those true, noble, right, pure, admirable things.

Here’s hoping we can do that over the next month — and even beyond. And why not? If big-box retailers can celebrate Christmas their way virtually year-round, why can’t the rest of us try to do it the right way?

Contact Steve Sebelius at SSebelius@reviewjournal.com. Follow @SteveSebelius on Twitter.

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