Bah, humbug.

It just ainít my thing, all this Christmas stuff. Sure, "reason for the season" and all that is lovely, but this whole commercial aspect of it Ė and itís becoming fashionable to complain about it Ė is getting on my last nerve.

You canít even get into the store to get a pack of Diet Coke in less than an hour these days. Iíve never seen such harried, wide-eyed, completely frantic and frenzied people as around Christmas. Two thousand years ago, Joseph and Mary settled down in a manger with the farm animals to have a baby, and today, we donít feel like weíve done our civic duty unless we boost the sales tax base 200 percent at Christmas. Something is definitely amiss here.

Iím a Grinch, I guess. A Scrooge. A no-account Christmas curmudgeon. If it had any reverence about it anymoreÖbut no. Itís all about Black Friday, that ominous day after Thanksgiving where the stores mark everything down then throw open the doors via ropes and pulleys because they certainly donít want to be standing in the way when that credit-card waving, Christmas-club-cashing mob storms through the door like a stampede of buffalo. Theyíre like piranhas, leaving behind empty aisles of shelves like skeletons.

Itís all about sales inserts and getting the deliveries from in time. Itís about making the deadlines for Second Day Shipping, Next Day Air and Priority Overnight. The wise men didnít have all that, you know. No UPS. No FedEx, postal service or, thank goodness, even the Pony Express. They walked to deliver their gifts. Walked to the manger.

Donít matter what denominational criteria you follow, what the nuances of your beliefs are, how it all gels in your mind. The old adage remains true. The reason for the season. Itís not about Visa and Master Card. Itís not about Xbox and 360. Itís not even about turkey and trimmings and sparkly trees, though all thatís nice and harmless.

Itís that two thousand years ago, a baby was born. Scholars and theologians differ on the details, and the preacher may debate the priest who disagrees with the rabbi, but the end result remains the same: That baby changed the world. We got all complicated and uptight about the details, not that baby. We made wars over it, fractionalized over it, commercialized over it. That child and the man he became never carried a sword or a credit card. In fact, he had brunch with tax collectors and was known to hang out with fishermen, the best of folks by any measure!

Heck, Iím guilty of it, too. Happily pulled out the card for the shopping spree. While my religious convictions are likely controversial at best, and Iím pretty much scared to enter any church that hasnít been constructed to the most current of building codes, I cringe when I think of how Iíve contributed to the commercialism by teaching it to my kids because I didnít have the courage to tell the world, "No." Didnít have the nerve to let it all pass by and reject it. Who wants to mark their kids that way? Who wants to embarrass them when their friends ask, "Whatíd you get for Christmas?"

Ah, well. Happy in the multitudes of yuletide zombies, thatís how we are. Itís not A Charlie Brown Christmas anymore. Even the Grinch, and the Scrooge, have become symbols of people who donít want to get into the holiday spending frenzyÖbecause weíve really forgotten the message that Scrooge and Grinch learned from their ways: That one little Who can melt a heart. That the ghosts of Christmas can change a life.

So hereís my holiday wish to you kind folks: Have a Merry Christmas, whether youíre in for a penny or in for a pound. Have a great holiday, hopefully with family and friends. Good will toward men and peace on earth is the greatest gift, along with a little patience.

Oh, and thereís that other story, too. Besides Grinch and Scrooge. The one about mangers and farm animals, swaddling clothes, huddling against the cold of the night. About wise men and stars. About changing the world, and making a difference.

And, of course, hanging out with fishermen!

Merry Christmas.