If there is a "war on Christmas" it is begin waged by our thoroughly messed up climate, which in recent days handed us weather more akin to St. Patrick's Day and melted away the beautiful, Christmasy snow cover. That other "war on Christmas," the one decried annually by Bill O'Reilly, Sarah Palin and others of the right fringe to boost ratings and sell books, appears largely fictional.

Christmas spirit is demonstrated through word and deed by Berkshire residents again this year, in particular through gifts to charities and participation in gift-buying programs for needy children. Is Christmas too commercialized? Yes, but this isn't new and the economic benefits of the season to retailers and their employees are many and undeniable. Still, it is worth remembering, as the Grinch learned, that "Maybe Christmas ... doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas -- perhaps -- means a little bit more."

Pope Francis has embodied the Christmas spirit by focusing his new papacy on the poor and disadvantaged, people who should be thought of all year long, not just at Christmas. The pope hasn't changed any policies of the Catholic Church but he is in the process of refocusing its priorities, steering it away from its counterproductive obsession with gays and contraception toward the larger picture of making the world a better place for all.

Pope Francis is emphasizing compassion over judgment, humility over arrogance, and the strengths in people rather than their weaknesses. He advocates inclusion over exclusion, conciliation over division. The pope decries the exalting of money over the needs of the poor, sick and elderly. These are not radical notions. They are, in fact, much in the spirit of the season, and ideally, of the new year ahead.