My friend Arnold called a couple days ago to wish me Merry Christmas and to tell me he really tried hard to make it to our Christmas Eve candlelight service. 

     “Thanks, Arnold,” I said, “but what happened?”

     “Oh, on the way I decided to drop in for a few minutes to a friend’s Christmas party and I got into a fight.”  

     “You got into a fight on Christmas Eve?”  

     “That’s right.  And not just one of them, either.”  

     “Tell me about it.  Are you OK?”

     “Yeah, I’m OK. It didn’t come to fisticuffs, but almost.” 

     “ Tell me more,” I said.

     “Well, I got my drink and went over to the host standing there in a small group in a corner of the room and I told him I wasn’t going to be there long because I was going to Christmas Eve Mass.  Then one of them said, “What for?  All those fairy tales, you mean?”  And I replied, “So what’s with you?  You’ve never sung ‘Here comes Santa Claus?’”  And the guy got so mad he spilled his martini all over his tie.  I was just trying to be playful, but he got mad, for some reason.”

     “So did you leave?” 

     “I should have,” Arnold said.  “But I wasn’t finished with my drink, so I meandered over to another corner of the room, where some guy was saying, “We’ve just elected a sexual abuser as our next President!”  The woman next to him didn’t like that and said she was offended by what he just said.  He replied to her, “I’m not being malicious, I’m just stating a fact.”  “Well, it’s malicious,” she said.  So I couldn’t help myself and jumped in with “But isn’t that what the President-elect admitted about himself?”  “Oh, not another one of those Demo-libs,” she said.  “No,” I told her, “I’m a Republican.”  “Then just shut up about it,” she said, red in the face.

     So I drifted away from that conversation over to another one, where someone was saying, “I couldn’t vote for Hillary because she doesn’t tell the truth.”  So I asked him, “Have you ever logged onto “Politifact?  It’s a fact-checking organization that shows how Trump as a far bigger liar than Hillary.  “No, and I don’t care about those phony fact-checkers,” the guy replied.  So I told him, “You mean you’re more comfortable with fake facts and conspiracy theories?”  And the guy put his nose up against mine and said, “Who the hell are you to tell me what to think?”  So I just kept wandering around the room to find a decent discussion where I wasn’t going to get into any trouble.

     “So did you find one?” I asked.

     “No.  Everybody was mad.  I found that intriguing.  It’s Christmas Eve and everybody was angry.  It was the most cheer-less Christmas party I’ve ever been to.”

     “So why did you stay?”  

     “I don’t know.  It was my kind of Scotch and it was free, I guess,” he said with a chuckle.  

     “That’s not like you, Arnold,” I said.  “Something else must have made you stay.”

     “Like I said, the anger intrigued me.  So I just want around and listened to everybody.  What do you make of it, anyway, Father?  Everybody’s mad.  Fake facts and pizza place shootings and phone threats to teachers and swastikas painted on churches – now we’ve got mall brawls.  What’s your take on it, anyway?

     “A combative spirit is loose in the land, isn’t it?” I said.

     “You can say that again.  If you don’t agree with someone, they’re ready to go to combat.”  

     “So what’s your solution, Arnold?” I asked.

     “I think we need another election, with a whole new set of candidates, but if I go around saying that I’ll get into another fight, won’t I?”  

     “Probably,” I said.  “You should have skipped the party and come to Christmas Eve Mass, my friend.”

     “I know.  So what would I hear about there?”

     “How about things like the Prince of Peace?”

     “Peace?  Now there’s something worth fighting about,” he said.  “And Happy New Year too.”