I've never bought into the concept that there's too much hustle and bustle around the holidays. And while one could make a good case for rampant materialism during this time, I'm a diehard capitalist. Plus, I like giving and receiving gifts as much as the next person. The biggest challenge of the commercialization of the holidays is to make sure that one's priorities are aligned right.

Nevertheless, Christmas is upon us, and this year more than any other, the Christmas spirit has been more difficult to find. I just opened an e-mail from a cattleman that descended from disagreeing with my views into a personal attack. He even accused me of being a packer employee because I had written last week about the packing sector's lack of profitability the last couple of months and the shakeout that's coming as a result of too much capacity. The writer closed by advising me to get a real job and questioned my ethics.

I love it when people point out my errors in logic, and always learn a lot from those who disagree. But as much as I love a good debate, I also invariably get mad when someone attacks the messenger instead of the message. My biggest peeve is when people accuse me of not being a cow-calf producer just because my opinion doesn't jibe with theirs.

I was about to dash off a scathing response, pointing out to this reader that I love this industry and want nothing more than to preserve it for my kids, and that he had no right to impugn my integrity. It then hit me like a ton of bricks.

The problem with my attitude and lack of Christmas spirit is myself. This is the time for family, for creating lasting memories, and to live like we should live yearlong. This is a time to think hard about life's priorities and be thankful for the most precious gift of all. It's a time to recognize that some things are eternal, while most are temporal; and some things will bring a smile to one's face at life's end, while the others will be forgotten moments after they occur.

It is time to immerse oneself in what is truly important, to think of a God that so longed to be part of our lives that He became one of us. And so that we might live, He died for us, and all we have to do is to accept this most precious of gifts.

So I deleted that nasty reply and wrote "Merry Christmas to you and yours," and hit the "send" button.

I realized that my lack of holiday spirit up until now had nothing to do with being overworked, underpaid, under-appreciated or unloved. It had to do with me failing to live and embrace the moment, and to grasp what's always there for the taking by doing nothing more than accepting it.

My wish for you is that your holidays will be filled with the spirit of Christmas; That this Christmas will be one of special memories; That you might hold the hand of your spouse in prayer and tearfully be thankful for all your blessings; That you might sit with one of your grandparents at a Christmas Eve service and see the sparkle of Christ in their eyes; That you will pick up a phone and call that high school friend that was like a brother or sister to you and catch up a little; That you might put together a care package for a neighbor or forgotten child; That you might see life through the eyes of a child and feel the excitement of it all if for just a few moments; That you might feel a little closer to God; That you might dig out that old Scrabble game and play till the wee hours of the morning; And that you might sit in your living room with a blanket wrapped around you, sipping a cup of hot chocolate with nothing but the lights of the Christmas tree on and just exist in the love of the season.