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Where do we find Christmas joy?

As I write this piece, the Thomas fire is still only about half contained despite the valiant efforts of our fine firefighters.

We lick the wounds inflicted upon our society by the 317 mass shootings in 2017, so far.

We hear of powerful men and women misusing their position for sexual gratification, and no matter our political point of view we all know our political system is not working well.

We might be tempted to fall into a pit of gloom rather than jump for joy.

But there is hope and much to give thanks for. As I look back on the last year, I have seen in our city, valley and throughout North County many signs of hope expressed by our community.

As we drive along the 101, the Enos Ranch development is starting to provide jobs and a commercial boost to our economy. The other side of the road and beyond we see crop after crop being grown.

We also hear of many excellent acts of charity and outreach to the less-fortunate. So many poorer families received Thanksgiving turkeys, and with all that cranberry sauce. This was the effort of many community groups, schools and churches.

Nobody in our city and valley should go without this year or any year. I have been moved to tears by the level of generosity people have, not just in my parish but throughout the whole community, in response to disasters such as floods, hurricanes, fires or matters of justice, be it shootings, sex-trafficking or poverty at home and abroad. The North County has a really good heart.

It is in these localized actions that we can keep our hope alive and heads held high against those things that can weigh us down. We can think of all our community and charity efforts as a year-long expression of the Christmas spirit, of bringing light to the world.

This is not just a Christian motif. This sense of the light showing us the way, individually and communally, is found in Hanukkah, celebrated two weeks ago and in various festivities of many other faiths.

Light gives us confidence in darkness that can overwhelm us, and quells our anxieties so we experience not just calm but a deeper peace.

However, what is most important is that we reflect that hope-filled light into our own families, communities and workplaces.

The lighting of the Menorah, the dressing of trees and now whole houses at Christmas — there have been some fabulous light displays this year — dhoti lamps at Diwali last November, Kwanzaa celebrations and so on, all remind us how light comes from on high and guides us and protects us.

The spirit of generosity and concern for those less-fortunate comes from that light revealing their need and arouses in us a desire to do something about it that makes us truly human.

So, there is much to be joyful for here in North County, and not just at Christmas. Perhaps we could consider ourselves to be truly a light shining in the wilderness, being a voice to the nation saying “Hey, when a community has a giving heart, it is attractive and grows.”

We are growing, we are attractive and we have a good heart. Merry Christmas and/or Happy Holidays and a purposeful, prosperous New Year to all.

Aidan Peter Rossiter is pastor at St. Louis de Montfort Catholic Church in Orcutt.