A few nights ago the staff and leadership team of Westview gathered for a Christmas meal together. We couldn’t all join in because several were sick so the conversation was warm and intimate. Melissa talked about Crystal and Toby’s internet conversations from Afghanistan and the gifts our church had sent them last month. It was a touching reminder of the sacrifice those who represent us in uniform make to secure our freedoms. Those who endure hardships that we might have peace and quiet here at home.
Sixty-nine years ago this Christmas Eve over 20,000 people gathered on the lawn of the Whitehouse and stood in the freezing cold to witness the lighting of the Christmas Tree and to hear two leaders share their greetings on the eve of that holy day. Remember what had happened just two weeks prior? Pearl Harbor had been bombed and our nation was at war. A war that engulfed the entire world!
The first to speak was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, he said,
Fellow workers for freedom:
There are many men and women in America- sincere and faithful men and women—who are asking themselves this Christmas: How can we light our trees? How can we give our gifts? How can we meet and worship with love and with uplifted spirit and heart in a world at war, a world of fighting and suffering and death? How can we pause, even for a day, even for Christmas Day, in our urgent labor of arming a decent humanity against the enemies which beset it? How can we put the world aside, as men and women put the world aside in peaceful years, to rejoice in the birth of Christ? These are natural—inevitable—questions in every part of the world which is resisting the evil thing.
And even as we ask these questions, we know the answer. There is another preparation demanded of this Nation beyond and beside the preparation of weapons and materials of war. There is demanded also of us the preparation of our hearts; the arming of our hearts. And when we make ready our hearts for the labor and the suffering and the ultimate victory which lie ahead, then we observe Christmas Day—with all of its memories and all of its meanings—as we should.
Looking into the days to come, I have set aside a day of prayer, and in that Proclamation I have said: “The year 1941 has brought upon our Nation a war of aggression by powers dominated by arrogant rulers whose selfish purpose is to destroy free institutions. They would thereby take from the freedom-loving peoples of the earth the hard-won liberties gained over many centuries.
“The new year of 1942 calls for the courage and the resolution of old and young to help to win a world struggle in order that we may preserve all we hold dear.
“We are confident in our devotion to country, in our love of freedom, in our inheritance of courage. But our strength, as the strength of all men everywhere, is of greater avail as God upholds us.
“Therefore, I… do hereby appoint the first day of the year 1942 as a day of prayer, of asking forgiveness for our shortcomings of the past, of consecration to the tasks of the present, of asking God’s help in days to come.
“We need His guidance that this people may be humble in spirit but strong in the conviction of the right; steadfast to endure sacrifice, and brave to achieve a victory of liberty and peace.”
Our strongest weapon in this war is that conviction of the dignity and brotherhood of man which Christmas Day signifies-more than any other day or any other symbol. Against enemies who preach the principles of hate and practice them, we set our faith in human love and in God’s care for us and all men everywhere. It is in that spirit, and with particular thoughtfulness of those, our sons and brothers, who serve in our armed forces on land and sea, near and far- those who serve for us and endure for us that we light our Christmas candles now across the continent from one coast to the other on this Christmas Eve.
We have joined with many other Nations and peoples in a very great cause. Millions of them have been engaged in the task of defending good with their life-blood for months and for years. One of their great leaders stands beside me. He and his people in many parts of the world are having their Christmas trees with their little children around them, just as we do here. He and his people have pointed the way in courage and in sacrifice for the sake of little children everywhere.
And so I am asking my associate, my old and good friend, to say a word to the people of America, old and young, tonight Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of Great Britain.
I’ll tell you what he said, next week. In the meanwhile, think about the magnitude of what the president said: that the future of our society necessitated celebrating the true meaning of Christmas and turning to God in prayer!
Fitting words for all of us, no matter the struggle.
Think about it.
See you Sunday!
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