Merry Christmas

It is only seven hours until Christmas. I am buying a last-minute present for my wife. And apparently I am not alone.

There are males all over this store, crawling on top of each other like hungry grizzly bears. Some men grasp for last-minute gifts in such desperation that they don’t even know which items they’re carrying to the cashier.

I overhear a conversation between a man and his teenage son in the checkout lane:

SON: Dad, I think you grabbed the wrong box.

DAD: What do you mean? This is a robot vacuum for your mom.

SON: That’s a deep fryer.

DAD: Well I’ll be a [non-family-friendly word].

While I wait in line, I read a magazine article entitled “The War on Christmas.” The article is about whether it’s culturally correct to say “Merry Christmas,” or “Happy holidays.” And don’t even get the article started on “God bless you.”

As it happens, most of the article’s multicultural experts say that these holiday phrases are non-offensive just as long as you never say them, write them, read them, or think them.

Another expert recommends using neutral alternative Christmas greetings in public such as, “Merry winter,” or, “Happy Solstice,” or “Here’s my wallet, ma’am, please don’t be offended.” So in other words,—and this is a classic example of today’s journalism—huh?

So I put the magazine down.

You should see the males in this store. They are going totally ape for gifts. There are hundreds of men elbowing each other, racing, panicking, and in some cases, biting.

An older man in my checkout line says, “This is madness, isn’t it?”

I smile at him and answer “Merry Solstice, sir.”

He frowns. “Merry what?”

He’s a nice guy. Tall. White hair. Slender. We have a conversation. He tells me his wife died six years ago. They were supposed to retire and do some intensive traveling in an RV. But ever since she died, the RV has been in the driveway.

Then he met Sharon. It was a blind date, last year. And to make a long story longer, they are now married. And tomorrow morning, after Christmas with his family, they’re taking the RV to Alaska. They’re going to see America.

Also in line is a man and his two sons. He is mid-forties, a big guy. His teenage boys smell pretty ripe, like they’ve been jumping rope in the attic. They have a buggy filled with pink boxes, dolls, and girly items.

“These gifts are for my daughter Sara,” says the man.

Sara is adopted. This is her first Christmas with the family. Sara will be five years old in a few weeks and has a long list of disabilities. For example, she will probably never walk.

But they knew this before they adopted her. The adoption agency told the family that nobody wanted to adopt Sara because of her problems.

“But she’s our angel,” says the man. “She’s part of us.”

The boys agree that Sara is the best thing that ever happened to their family, even ranking above their new Playstation. Then, Dad explains to me that Sara already has several gifts waiting for her at home. These last-minute gifts in the buggy aren’t coming from him.

“My boys are buying these presents on their own, they pooled their money after earning it by doing yard work all yesterday.”

One boy adds, “Sara’s our baby sister.”

“Yeah,” says the other.

So I end up standing in line for roughly the same amount of time it takes to complete a college doctoral program. And when it is my turn to checkout, I meet my cashier. She is a cheerful woman who I will call Rose—because I like this name.

Rose’s sister is moving in with her this week. This is a big deal for Rose, whose parents are both deceased. Her sister is the only family she has left. They haven’t seen each other since her sister moved to the U.K. eleven years ago.

“I can’t wait for Christmas,” says Rose. “I’m gonna cook all night tonight after I get off work. I have a turkey, sweet potatoes, it’ll be like old times.”

Her sister’s plane lands in a few hours. Rose can hardly wait to hug her sister’s neck.

I ask Rose if she has a problem with the phrase “Merry Christmas.”

“Yes,” she says. “I hate that I only get to say it once a year.”

And I can’t help but feel good inside tonight. Certainly, I know there are a lot of bad things going on in the world right now. There are horrific headlines, serious tragedies, and the evening news will make your stomach sour. A lot of people tell you that the world is one big, ticked off mess of angry people.

And well, maybe that’s true, what do I know? But the more they keep saying that, the more I keep seeing something else.

Like widowers who find love and travel to Alaska in RVs. And a cashier who loves her sister so much she cries when she tells you about it. And a couple of sweaty boys who spent their hard earned money on their new sister, Sara, who might never walk, but will have a wonderful life because one family was brave enough to love her.

Wherever you are this Christmas Eve, and no matter what your life looks like, I have something I want to tell you. I’ll try to be as culturally correct as possible when I say it:

Feliz Navidad.

And God bless little Sara.


  1. sparkerlpc - December 25, 2019 7:16 am

    Merry Christmas to you, Jamie, and the pups!

  2. Lita - December 25, 2019 8:11 am

    Merry Everything Every Day, to you and yours. Yes – and God bless all the little Saras, and all the little Stephens.

  3. GaryD - December 25, 2019 10:44 am

    Merry Christmas to all !

  4. Ann - December 25, 2019 11:16 am

    Merry Christmas every day!

  5. Anita Johnson - December 25, 2019 11:45 am

    Thanks for warming my heart. This is my second tough Christmas without my husband of 53 years. I’m doing my best to focus on all the blessings we shared. I’m now trying to be a blessing to others who just need someone to listen and care. Merry Christmas and God bless you for the love, joy and laughter you bring to our days.

  6. Richda McNutt - December 25, 2019 11:55 am

    Merry, Merry Christmas, Sean – and I wish you a hopeful, grace-filled 2020.

  7. Janis - December 25, 2019 12:42 pm

    Feliz Navidad, Sean. And happy everything else too. It’s all about love, anyway.

  8. Nancy shields - December 25, 2019 1:06 pm


  9. Steve - December 25, 2019 1:23 pm

    Yep, still a lot of good in this world. God bless we see more of it. Merry Christmas!!🎄🎁

  10. Jo Ann - December 25, 2019 1:51 pm

    Merry Christmas to you & your family, Sean!!!

  11. Jan G - December 25, 2019 1:58 pm

    Merry, Merry Christmas!!! 🎄🎁 Thank you so very much Sean for blessing us so richly everyday with the wonderful gifts of you, your family, your four legged children, your heart, your humor, your creativity, but most of all the love and compassion you put into each column that gives us all a better life!! 💜🤗💜🤗💜🤗

  12. Shelton A. - December 25, 2019 2:02 pm

    Merry Christmas to you all (including Thelma Lou and Otis and your 2 Moms), God bless you all, and God bless Sara (although with the love shown by her new family-He has blessed her)!

  13. Harriet - December 25, 2019 2:12 pm

    Your columns are a Christmas gift every day! Feliz Navidad!

  14. Deborah Johnson Jones - December 25, 2019 2:12 pm

    Merry Christmas, Sean, to you and all the family. We still talk about when we saw you in Trussville this past summer. It was wonderful and we enjoyed meeting you and Jamie so much. God’s blessings to you and Jamie in the coming year and always.

  15. Dawn Bratcher - December 25, 2019 2:35 pm

    Yes, God bless them all! Beautiful people we now love because you care. May our Lord bless you & Jamie & keep you this year & forevermore. Merry Christmas!

  16. Karen - December 25, 2019 2:41 pm

    Merry Christmas Sean and Jamie 🎄. Thank you Sean for your gifts of stories this past year. My husband and I look forward to more in 2020. Your Santa Rosa Beach neighbors,

  17. Fran Nance - December 25, 2019 3:53 pm

    ❤️❤️ Thank you for the smiles today! Merry Christmas to you and yours, and God bless us all! ❤️❤️

  18. Suzanne Smith - December 25, 2019 3:54 pm

    and Mele Kalikimaka, and God bless you and yours

  19. Linda Moon - December 25, 2019 4:15 pm

    One of my favorite war movies is “Bridge on the River Kwai”. It ended with “madness”. Thank God for your perceptions to see and write about something better than that in lines or in culture. God Bless Us Everyone for the stories of real people who have Wonderful Lives because of bravery and love on this Christmas Day! And “everyone” includes the hon-human ones, too: Thelma Lou and Otis!

  20. Clonnie Kujawa - December 25, 2019 4:35 pm

    Merry Christmas and love Sean. Jamie is so blessed to have you but sounds like you are too. Y’all keep loving God and each other and a sharing your stories with us!

  21. Betty F. - December 25, 2019 4:39 pm

    Merry Christmas to you and Jamie and your fur-babies. Help keep us focused on the glimpses of goodness hidden beneath the shouting headlines. Thank you.

  22. Jeanne Butler - December 25, 2019 5:07 pm

    MERRY CHRISTMAS Sean. God bless yours

  23. MermaidGrammy - December 25, 2019 5:41 pm

    Merry Christmas!!
    First: We see what we look for. Two people can go to the same city. One will come back telling you what nice, friendly people he met there; it was clean, pretty and safe. The other will tell you the people were rude, snarky and wouldn’t speak. The streets and sidewalk were full of trash, he didn’t feel comfortable and didn’t trust the people. Who’s got the right story. There is NO War on Christmas. That idea was put out by Bill Marr as a scare tactic to get people whipped up into a frenzy. Something that usually works
    2nd; Don’t you wish you had a Sara at home?

  24. Edna Barron - December 25, 2019 6:01 pm

    MERRY CHRISTMAS from Pogo and me. Hugs, Edna B.

  25. Barbara - December 25, 2019 6:08 pm

    Merry Christmas to all.

  26. Frank Rouse - December 25, 2019 6:12 pm

    Merry Christmas Sean! I wish you and your family the happiest of New Years as well.

  27. La Vera Seymour - December 25, 2019 6:25 pm

    Beautiful, you re the best!

  28. aleathia nicholson - December 25, 2019 8:41 pm

    Merry Christmas Sean.

  29. Joanne Reilly - December 25, 2019 9:01 pm

    Merry Christmas Sean! Merry Christmas to all!

  30. Jim Thomssen - December 25, 2019 9:06 pm

    Right back at you. Thanks Sean. You do make an impact on people’s lives, don’t ever forget that.

  31. Steve Winfield - December 25, 2019 9:22 pm

    MERRY CHRISTMAS Sean, Jamie & the dogs!
    God bless you all in Jesus name!
    Politically incorrect in Shannon, Alabama.
    (Thanks for making my days better.)

  32. Martha Young - December 25, 2019 10:47 pm

    Merry Christmas ! Jesus is the reason for the season and all the other things us Christians that believe in the birth of Jesus Christ our Savior say and we really do not mind if it offends someone because it is our belief and what makes us get up each morning and face whatever is tossed our way.

  33. Ron - December 25, 2019 11:37 pm

    Merry Christmas to you, Jamie and your family.

  34. that's jack - December 26, 2019 12:16 am

    MERRY CHRISTMAS, I said that knowing no one else would. LOL Okay Since I drove to Alaska a few years ago I hope you got the newly wed RV’ers name. Give him a shout, THIS AIN’T THE RIGHT TIME!!!! Just sayin’.
    Okay hug ‘at girl and stay warm.
    Sherry & jack
    PS: Maybe the newly weds want to be snowed in for a month or so!!!

  35. Mary - December 26, 2019 3:27 am

    These are the types of stories I love to read. Full of real people that make this world worth living in. Thank you

  36. Jody - December 26, 2019 4:06 pm

    Merry Christmas all. Blessing for the coming year.

  37. Carol - January 12, 2020 1:47 am

    Sorry. I missed you. And Jamie. I just didn’t read all the Christmas greetings. I have a great family and I love Jesus and my bday is the 23rd buy Christmas has always been sad and I miss my Pete ,( husband) he died 17 yrs ago just 52 and he made me love Christmas with him and my family!
    But now that it’s over. Can I wish you a Very Merry Christmas 🎄🎁!
    You y’all!


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