I've always liked Advent calendars with their little windows counting down the days until Christmas. And I've always liked Books of Days - diaries that give you a nugget of thought for each day of the year.

So today, I'll give you a bit of both. I don't have the brain power to write 365 thoughts for 1991, but I may be able to come up with 12 tidbits to think about until Christmas:-It seems to me there are two ways to make the world a better place:(a) put a cap on bad things and keep them contained, or(b) do good deeds and enhance the positive parts of the world. I like(b) Doing(b) tends to make(a) happen all by itself - at least inside of us where the true "good-bad" battle is waged.

-From the files of Kim Hubbard: "We'll bet that folks who spell Christmas 'Xmas' leave their greeting cards unsealed so they'll go cheaper."

-Boxer Muhammad Ali's in the news again. I remember how he took pride in his ability to "float like a butterfly and sting like a bee." But at Christmas, I hope he does the opposite. I hope he's large, full of sweetness and totally harmless, "floating like a bee and stinging like a butterfly."

-Another favorite Christmas quote: "I, of course, believe in Santa Claus; but it's the season for forgiving and I forgive all of you who don't."-- G.K. Chesterton.

-It's always made more sense to me for people to do one nice thing for one person on a personal level than contribute money so nice things get done for several people you've never met.

-It's not just coincidence that we human beings are built like tuning forks. We're built to pick up vibrations of goodwill wherever they occur. When Mother Teresa does a good deed on Christmas, people in America feel the vibrations. We're naturally pitched to the "good deed" frequency, we can't help but vibrate in harmony.

-The Humbug John Andrew Holmes once claimed that "Christmas has come to mean the period when the public plays Santa Claus to the merchants."

-When it's Christmas in Utah, every barn is a manger, every power pole a cross.

-Marcelene Cox says "Our children await Christmas presents like politicians getting election returns; there's the Uncle Fred precinct and the Aunt Ruth district still to come in."

-This Christmas there's a new edition of Robert Fulghum's little essay, "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten." This version features fancy calligraphy and costly paper. It's ornate and lavish.

Why do we decorate and embellish simple, precious things? We do it to religious texts and religious shrines. At Christmas, we do it to our homes, our trees and our presents.

My guess is the wisest people see the simple truth inside the showy trim but never make a fuss. They know flashy decoration is simply our human, goofy way of drawing attention to something simple and precious.

-We worry so much about how seductive evil can be, we often forget that goodwill can be seductive, too. The expression "first we abhor, then tolerate, then embrace" can be said for what's good as well as what's wicked.

Virgil Thompson fought being seduced by goodwill in "The Hound of Heaven." A mad dog chases the poet through the heavens until Thompson's will is spent. In defeat he turns to confront the fangs of the beast.

The hound turns out to be Jesus speaking words of love.

-And a final thought: Better get shopping. It's almost the night before, the night before, the night before, the night before Christmas.