Since 1870, the United States has officially celebrated Christmas as a nation and as a result has declared as a nation the belief in the coming of the Savior to earth. Just as the official Thanksgiving proclamations of the Presidents declare that our nation depends upon the grace and mercy of the LORD God to exist, the celebration of Christmas declares the nation’s faith in the manifestation of that grace and mercy in the birth of the Messiah.
Remarks on Lighting the National Community Christmas Tree
December 17, 1981
Ladies and gentlemen and fellow Americans:
This is a wonderful occasion, an annual occasion here in Washington, when we turn on the nation’s Christmas tree.
Christmas, of course, is, I think for all of us, is a time of memories of our own childhood, of our children, grandchildren—but anyway, it is a time of children. And so, here tonight we’re surrounded by children, I’m happy to say, here in the East Room of the White House.
Maybe it’s fitting that children should be here and that Christmas is a time for children, because the man whose birthday we celebrate in this season came to us the Prince of Peace, not in a chariot, but as a babe in a manger. I know there are some who celebrate this day, the Christmas Day, as the birthday of a great teacher and philosopher. To others of us, he is more than that; he is also divine. But to all of us, he taught us the way that we could have peace on Earth and good will to men, and that is if we would do unto others as we would have others do unto us.
Now, this button here and this box has been used for turning on the national Christmas tree since 1923, I believe it was, when President Coolidge first did it. It didn’t always get turned on here in the White House. Sometimes it was outdoors and down where the tree is and sometimes it wasn’t even in Washington. Harry Truman turned the tree on once with this same switch from Independence, Missouri. Franklin Delano Roosevelt turned it on at times from Hyde Park. But it’s going to be turned on here from Washington.
I had hoped that—in fact, I one day said that our grandchild, Cameron Michael, might be able to push the button, but he’s 3,000 miles away. All these children are here, and I couldn’t pick one of them out of all of this number to push the button, so I’m going to have to do it myself.
And in doing it, we all know that this Christmas is not as happy for some Americans as it could be, not as happy for some people out in other parts of the world. We’ve had other Christmases in our land-the first one when we were a nation in 1976 , and Washington led his men across the Delaware River in a battle that set the stage for our independence. And legend has it that the path of their march through the snow was one of blood-stained footprints. But we shall live with the hope and the promise of the man of Galilee that Christmases will be better and that we will have peace and good will among men.
And now—[pressing the button]—the tree is lighted.
Do you want to look around and you can see the tree over there on the monitor? There it is. All lighted up.
Address to the Nation About Christmas and the Situation in Poland
December 23, 1981
At Christmas time, every home takes on a special beauty, a special warmth, and that’s certainly true of the White House, where so many famous Americans have spent their Christmases over the years. This fine old home, the people’s house, has seen so much, been so much a part of all our lives and history. It’s been humbling and inspiring for Nancy and me to be spending our first Christmas in this place.
We’ve lived here as your tenants for almost a year now, and what a year it’s been. As a people we’ve been through quite a lot—moments of joy, of tragedy, and of real achievement—moments that I believe have brought us all closer together. G. K. Chesterton once said that the world would never starve for wonders, but only for the want of wonder.
At this special time of year, we all renew our sense of wonder in recalling the story of the first Christmas in Bethlehem, nearly 2,000 year ago.
Some celebrate Christmas as the birthday of a great and good philosopher and teacher. Others of us believe in the divinity of the child born in Bethlehem, that he was and is the promised Prince of Peace. Yes, we’ve questioned why he who could perform miracles chose to come among us as a helpless babe, but maybe that was his first miracle, his first great lesson that we should learn to care for one another.
Tonight, in millions of American homes, the glow of the Christmas tree is a reflection of the love Jesus taught us. Like the shepherds and wise men of that first Christmas, we Americans have always tried to follow a higher light, a star, if you will. At lonely campfire vigils along the frontier, in the darkest days of the Great Depression, through war and peace, the twin beacons of faith and freedom have brightened the American sky. At times our footsteps may have faltered, but trusting in God’s help, we’ve never lost our way.
Just across the way from the White House stand the two great emblems of the holiday season: a Menorah, symbolizing the Jewish festival of Hanukkah, and the National Christmas Tree, a beautiful towering blue spruce from Pennsylvania. Like the National Christmas Tree, our country is a living, growing thing planted in rich American soil. Only our devoted care can bring it to full flower. So, let this holiday season be for us a time of rededication.
Even as we rejoice, however, let us remember that for some Americans, this will not be as happy a Christmas as it should be. I know a little of what they feel. I remember one Christmas Eve during the Great Depression, my father opening what he thought was a Christmas greeting. It was a notice that he no longer had a job.
Over the past year, we’ve begun the long, hard work of economic recovery. Our goal is an America in which every citizen who needs and wants a job can get a job. Our program for recovery has only been in place for 12 weeks now, but it is beginning to work. With your help and prayers, it will succeed. We’re winning the battle against inflation, runaway government spending and taxation, and that victory will mean more economic growth, more jobs, and more opportunity for all Americans.
A few months before he took up residence in this house, one of my predecessors, John Kennedy, tried to sum up the temper of the times with a quote from an author closely tied to Christmas, Charles Dickens. We were living, he said, in the best of times and the worst of times. Well, in some ways that’s even more true today. The world is full of peril, as well as promise. Too many of its people, even now, live in the shadow of want and tyranny.
As I speak to you tonight, the fate of a proud and ancient nation hangs in the balance. For a thousand years, Christmas has been celebrated in Poland, a land of deep religious faith, but this Christmas brings little joy to the courageous Polish people. They have been betrayed by their own government.
The men who rule them and their totalitarian allies fear the very freedom that the Polish people cherish. They have answered the stirrings of liberty with brute force, killings, mass arrests, and the setting up of concentration camps. Lech Walesa and other Solidarity leaders are imprisoned, their fate unknown. Factories, mines, universities, and homes have been assaulted.
The Polish Government has trampled underfoot solemn commitments to the UN Charter and the Helsinki accords. It has even broken the Gdansk agreement of. August 1980, by which the Polish Government recognized the basic right of its people to form free trade unions and to strike.
The tragic events now occurring in Poland, almost 2 years to the day after the Soviet invasion Of Afghanistan, have been precipitated by public and secret pressure from the Soviet Union. It is no coincidence that Soviet Marshal Kulikov, chief of the Warsaw Pact forces, and other senior Red Army officers were in Poland while these outrages were being initiated. And it is no coincidence that the martial law proclamations imposed in December by the Polish Government were being printed in the Soviet Union in September.
The target of this depression [repression] is the Solidarity Movement, but in attacking Solidarity its enemies attack an entire people. Ten million of Poland’s 36 million citizens are members of Solidarity. Taken together with their families, they account for the overwhelming majority of the Polish nation. By persecuting Solidarity the Polish Government wages war against its own people.
I urge the Polish Government and its allies to consider the consequences of their actions. How can they possibly justify using naked force to crush a people who ask for nothing more than the right to lead their own lives in freedom and dignity? Brute force may intimidate, but it cannot form the basis of an enduring society, and the ailing Polish economy cannot be rebuilt with terror tactics.
Poland needs cooperation between its government and its people, not military oppression. If the Polish Government will honor the commitments it has made to human rights in documents like the Gdansk agreement, we in America will gladly do our share to help the shattered Polish economy, just as we helped the countries of Europe after both World Wars.
It’s ironic that we offered, and Poland expressed interest in accepting, our help after World War II. The Soviet Union intervened then and refused to allow such help to Poland. But if the forces of tyranny in Poland, and those who incite them from without, do not relent, they should prepare themselves for serious consequences. Already, throughout the Free World, citizens have publicly demonstrated their support for the Polish people. Our government, and those of our allies, have expressed moral revulsion at the police state tactics of Poland’s oppressors. The Church has also spoken out, in spite of threats and intimidation. But our reaction cannot stop there.
I want emphatically to state tonight that if the outrages in Poland do not cease, we cannot and will not conduct “business as usual” with the perpetrators and those who aid and abet them. Make no mistake, their crime will cost them dearly in their future dealings with America ‘and free peoples everywhere. I do not make this statement lightly or without serious reflection.
We have been measured and deliberate in our reaction to the tragic events in Poland. We have not acted in haste, and the steps I will outline tonight and others we may take in the days ahead are firm, just, and reasonable.
In order to aid the suffering Polish people during this critical period, we will continue the shipment of food through private humanitarian channels, but only so long as we know that the Polish people themselves receive the food. The neighboring country of Austria has opened her doors to refugees from Poland. I have therefore directed that American assistance, including supplies of basic foodstuffs, be offered to aid the Austrians in providing for these refugees.
But to underscore our fundamental opposition to the repressive actions taken by the Polish Government against its own people, the administration has suspended all government-sponsored shipments of agricultural and dairy’ products to the Polish Government. This suspension will remain in force until absolute assurances are received that distribution of these products is monitored and guaranteed by independent agencies. We must be sure that every bit of food provided by America goes to the Polish people, not to their oppressors.
The United States is taking immediate action to suspend major elements of our economic relationships with the Polish Government. We have halted the renewal of the Export-Import Bank’s line of export credit insurance to the Polish Government. We will suspend Polish civil aviation privileges in the United States. We are suspending the right of Poland’s fishing fleet to operate in American waters. And we’re proposing to our allies the further restriction of high technology exports to Poland.
These actions are not directed against the Polish people. They are a warning to the Government of Poland that free men cannot and will not stand idly by in the face of brutal repression. To underscore this point, I’ve written a letter to General Jaruzelski, head of the Polish Government. In it, I outlined the steps we’re taking and warned of the serious consequences if the Polish Government continues to use violence against its populace. I’ve urged him to free those in arbitrary detention, to lift martial law, and to restore the internationally recognized rights of the Polish people to free speech and association.
The Soviet Union, through its threats and pressures, deserves a major share of blame for the developments in Poland. So, I have also sent a letter to President Brezhnev urging him to permit the restoration of basic human rights in Poland provided for in the Helsinki Final Act. In it, I informed him that if this repression continues, the United States will have no choice but to take further concrete political and economic measures affecting our relationship.
When 19th century Polish patriots rose against foreign oppressors, their rallying cry was, “For our freedom and yours.” Well, that motto still rings true in our time. There is a spirit of solidarity abroad in the world tonight that no physical force can crush. It crosses national boundaries and enters into the hearts of men and women everywhere. In factories, farms, and schools, in cities and towns around the globe, we the people of the Free World stand as one with our Polish brothers and sisters. Their cause is ours, and our prayers and hopes go out to them this Christmas.
Yesterday, I met in this very room with Romuald Spasowski, the distinguished former Polish Ambassador who has sought asylum in our country in protest of the suppression of his native land. He told me that one of the ways the Polish people have demonstrated their solidarity in the face of martial law is by placing lighted candles in their windows to show that the light of liberty still glows in their hearts.
Ambassador Spasowski requested that on Christmas Eve a lighted candle will burn in the White House window as a small but certain beacon of our solidarity with the Polish people. I urge all of you to do the same tomorrow night, on Christmas Eve, as a personal statement of your commitment to the steps we’re taking to support the brave people of Poland in their time of troubles.
Once, earlier in this century, an evil influence threatened that the lights were going out all over the world. Let the light of millions of candles in American homes give notice that the light of freedom is not going to be extinguished. We are blessed with a freedom and abundance denied to so many. Let those candles remind us that these blessings bring with them a solid obligation, an obligation to the God who guides us, an obligation to the heritage of liberty and dignity handed down to us by our forefathers and an obligation to the children of the world, whose future will be shaped by the way we live our lives today.
Christmas means so much because of one special child. But Christmas also reminds us that all children are special, that they are gifts from God, gifts beyond price that mean more than any presents money can buy. In their love and laughter, in our hopes for their future lies the true meaning of Christmas.
So, in a spirit of gratitude for what we’ve been able to achieve together over the past year and looking forward to all that we hope to achieve together in the years ahead, Nancy and I want to wish you all the best of holiday seasons. As Charles Dickens, whom I quoted a few moments ago, said so well in “A Christmas Carol,” “God bless us, every one.”
December 24, 1981
Nancy and I are very happy to send our warmest greetings and best wishes to all those who are celebrating Christmas. We join with Americans everywhere in recognizing the sense of renewed hope and comfort this joyous season brings to our nation and the world.
The Nativity story of nearly twenty centuries ago is known by all faiths as a hymn to the brotherhood of man. For Christians, it is the fulfillment of age-old prophecies and the reaffirmation of God’s great love for all of us. Through a generous Heavenly Father’s gift of His Son, hope and compassion entered a world weary with fear and despair and changed it for all time.
On Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Christ with prayer, feasting, and great merriment. But, most of all, we experience it in our hearts. For, more than just a day, Christmas is a state of mind. It is found throughout the year whenever faith overcomes doubt, hope conquers despair, and love triumphs over hate. It is present when men of any creed bring love and understanding to the hearts of their fellow man.
The feeling is seen in the wondrous faces of children and in the hopeful eyes of the aged. It overflows the hearts of cheerful givers and the souls of the caring. And it is reflected in the brilliant colors, joyful sounds, and beauty of the winter season.
Let us resolve to honor this spirit of Christmas and strive to keep it throughout the year.
Nancy and I ask you to join us in a prayer that prudence, wisdom, and understanding might descend on the people of all nations’ so that during the year ahead we may realize an ancient and wondrous dream: “peace on earth, goodwill toward men.”
NBC Special: Christmas in Washington 1982 – President Reagan
Remarks on Lighting the National Community Christmas Tree
December 16, 1982
The President. My fellow Americans, the Christmas and Hanukkah decorations are up around the country, and in a moment we’ll be lighting the National Christmas Tree here in the Nation’s Capital.
In this holiday season, we celebrate the birthday of one who, for almost 2,000 years, has been a greater influence on humankind than all the rulers, all the scholars, all the armies and all the navies that ever marched or sailed, all put together. He brought to the world the simple message of peace on Earth, good will to all mankind.
Some celebrate the day as marking the birth of a great and good man, a wise teacher and prophet, and they do so sincerely. But for many of us it’s also a holy day, the birthday of the Prince of Peace, a day when “God so loved the world” that He sent us His only begotten son to assure forgiveness of our sins.
The Yuletide season is characterized in our country by the giving of gifts, a spirit of charity, and, yes, good will, more so than at any other time of the year. Already traditional programs are underway, drives to collect food and clothing for those who are in need. The U.S. Marine Reserves have a toy collection drive to make sure that old St. Nicholas—Santa Clause—has enough to go around. And this is matched in countless American communities by firemen, policemen, churches, religious groups, and service clubs.
Let me give you one specially moving example of what the Christmas spirit can do. I told this the other night. In Bridgeport, Connecticut, the Police Athletic League for years has maintained a kind of Christmas Center. It consists of a ranch-type house, a manger, and all the other things associated with Christmas. And during the holiday season it’s manned by a Santa Claus, elves, and helpers. Thousands of children visit it every year, and thousands of toys are given out to them.
This year, on Tuesday, December 7th, it was destroyed by fire set by a suspected arsonist. The mayor of Bridgeport called an emergency meeting. He asked for constructionists, carpenters, electricians, all the skills that are needed to help rebuild such a place. The answer to his call was instantaneous. More than 250 volunteers worked in shifts around the clock.
On Sunday, December 12th, 5 days later, at about 1:30 p.m. I phoned the mayor. He was officiating at the reopening of that Christmas Center to the cheers of hundreds and hundreds of the citizens of Bridgeport. It had been rebuilt in only the 4 days between the fire and the opening ceremony.
A recent initiative of Postmaster General William Bolger’s will make it easier for all of us to do our part. He has instructed post offices across the country to display lists of the Christmas food, clothing, and toy drives in their local areas, a guide to holiday giving open to all Americans.
This holiday season, as we work our way out of a recession, too many still find themselves without jobs, forced to cut back on things that they once thought of as their normal pattern of living. They aren’t statistics; they’re people. They’re our neighbors, friends, and, yes, family, and they make up that group that right now we call the unemployed. Their number’s greater than it has been for some time past. Still, for every unemployed individual there are 9 of us who do have jobs, and with that ratio of 1 out of 10 in mind, I’d like to make a suggestion. How about those of us who are employed making sure that those who aren’t will nevertheless have a merry Christmas. This is something that needs doing at the community level—neighbor helping neighbor.
The people we’re talking about may be members of your church, brothers and sisters in your local union, or that family across the street or down the block in your neighborhood. Surely between the nine of us, we can find a way to make Christmas merry for that one who temporarily can use our help. But remember, time is growing short, and Christmas is almost here, which brings us back to lighting the National Christmas Tree.
This beloved tradition, which began nearly 50 years ago, has a special symbolism for our people. It’s as if when we light this tree, we light something within ourselves as well. And during the Christmas season I think most Americans do feel a greater sense of family, friendship, giving, and joy. And there’s a special joy in our children at this time of year. I’ve heard from many of them recently. I wish Nancy and I could personally thank all you children who’ve written in, but I want you to know how good your cards, letters, and artwork make us feel.
Now, while Christmas is a time for children, it’s also a time to think of those who are less fortunate than we are, and let us also remember the constant vigil of the families of our missing in action. As we light this Christmas tree, may it light hope in the hearts of those who are lonely and needy.
In Ephesians we read that “Each of us has been given his gift, his portion of Christ’s bounty.” Well, let us share our bounty this Christmas season. Let us offer not only our hearts and prayers but a generous hand to those who need our help. And as we light this tree, let us brighten the lives of those here at home and around the world whose Christmas may not be as glowing and as cheerful as ours.
So, to all of you, God bless you and keep you during this cherished holiday season. And now let’s turn on the National Christmas Tree.
Christmas Day Radio Address to the Nation
December 25, 1982
Merry Christmas from the White House. Nancy and I wish we could personally thank the thousands of you who’ve sent us holiday cards, greetings, and messages. Each one is moving and tells a story of its own—a story of love, hope, prayer, and patriotism. And each one has helped to brighten our Christmas.
Some of the most moving have come from fellow citizens who, unlike most of us, are not spending Christmas day at the family hearth, surrounded by friends and loved ones. I’m thinking of the 12 U.S. marines who sent us a card from Beirut, Lebanon, where they’ll spend their Christmas helping to rebuild the shattered hopes for peace in a suffering land. And I’m thinking of the petty officer serving aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise who asked that we remember him and his shipmates this holiday season. “Christmas in the Indian Ocean is no fun,” he writes, “but it’s for a very good cause.”
Well, that’s right, sailor. You’re serving a very good cause, indeed. On this, the birthday of the Prince of Peace, you and your comrades serve to protect the peace He taught us. You may be thousands of miles away, but to us here at home, you’ve never been closer.
One of my favorite pieces of Christmas mail came early this year, a sort of modern American Christmas story that took place not in our country’s heartland, but on the troubled waters of the South China Sea last October. To me, it sums up so much of what is best about the Christmas spirit, the American character, and what this beloved land of ours stands for—not only to ourselves but to millions of less fortunate people around the globe.
I want to thank Mr. Gary Kemp of Neenab, Wisconsin, for bringing it to my attention. It’s a letter from Ordnance Man, First Class, John Mooney, written to his parents from aboard the aircraft carrier Midway on October 15th. But it’s a true Christmas story in the best sense.
“Dear Mom and Dad,” he wrote, “today we spotted a boat in the water, and we rendered assistance. We picked up 65 Vietnamese refugees. It was about a two-hour job getting everyone aboard, and then they had to get screened by intelligence and checked out by medical and fed and clothed and all that.
“But now they’re resting on the hangar deck, and the kids—most of them seem to be kids . . . are sitting in front of probably the first television set they’ve ever seen, watching ‘Star Wars’. Their boat was sinking as we came alongside. They’d been at sea five days, and had run out of water. All in all, a couple of more days and the kids would have been in pretty bad shape.
“I guess once in awhile,” he writes, “we need a jolt like that for us to realize why we do what we do and how important, really, it can be. I mean, it took a lot of guts for those parents to make a choice like that to go to sea in a leaky boat in hope of finding someone to take them from the sea. So much risk! But apparently they felt it was worth it rather than live in a Communist country.
“For all of our problems, with the price of gas, and not being able to afford a new car or other creature comforts this year… I really don’t see a lot of leaky boats heading out of San Diego looking for the Russian ships out there ….
“After the refugees were brought aboard, I took some pictures, but as usual I didn’t have my camera with me for the REAL picture—the one blazed in my mind ….
“As they approached the ship, they were all waving and trying as best they could to say, ‘Hello America sailor! Hello Freedom man!’ It’s hard to see a boat full of people like that and not get a lump somewhere between chin and bellybutton. And it really makes one proud and glad to be an American. People were waving and shouting and choking down lumps and trying not to let other brave men see their wet eyes. A lieutenant next to me said, ‘Yeah, I guess it’s payday in more ways than one.’ (We got paid today.) And I guess no one could say it better than that.
“It reminds us all of what America has always been—a place a man or woman can come to for freedom. I know we’re crowded and we have unemployment and we have a real burden with refugees, but I honestly hope and pray we can always find room. We have a unique society, made up of cast-offs of all the world’s wars and oppressions, and yet we’re strong and free. We have one thing in common—no matter where our forefathers came from, we believe in that freedom.
“I hope we always have room for one more person, maybe an Afghan or a Pole or someone else looking for a place… where he doesn’t have to worry about his family’s starving or a knock on the door in the night . . .” and where “all men who truly seek freedom and honor and respect and dignity for themselves and their posterity can find a place where they can . . . finally see their dreams come true and their kids educated and become the next generations of doctors and lawyers and builders and soldiers and sailors.
Well, I think that letter just about says it all. In spite of everything, we Americans are still uniquely blessed, not only with the rich bounty of our land but by a bounty of the spirit—a kind of year-round Christmas spirit that still makes our country a beacon of hope in a troubled world and that makes this Christmas and every Christmas even more special for all of us who number among our gifts the birthright of being an American.
Until next week, thanks for listening. Merry Christmas, and God bless you.
Remarks on Lighting the National Community Christmas Tree
December 15, 1983
My fellow Americans:
In just a moment we’ll be lighting our National Christmas Tree, continuing a wonderful tradition that was started by President Coolidge 60 years ago.
I know there’s a special feeling that we share when we push the button lighting up that tree. It’s as if each one of those twinkling lights sends a new spirit of love, hope, and joy through the heart of America.’ And, of course, the brightest light of all is the Star of Peace, expressing our hopes and prayers for peace for our families, our communities, our nation, and the world.
On behalf of our fellow citizens, Nancy and I would like to thank all of you on the Ellipse who have given America such a beautiful Christmas present, the 1983 Pageant for Peace.
Christmas is a time for giving, and as we reach out to family and friends, I hope we’ll also open our hearts to those who are lonely and in need, citizens less fortunate than ourselves, brave soldiers working to preserve peace from the tip of Alaska to the shores of Lebanon, to the DMZ in Korea, families maintaining a constant vigil for their missing in action, and millions forbidden the freedom to worship a God who so loved the world that He gave us the birth of the Christ Child so that we might learn to love each other. I know they would welcome your expressions of love and support.
Many stories have been written about Christmas. Charles Dickens’ “Carol” is probably the most famous. Well, I’d like to read some lines from a favorite of mine called, “One Solitary Life,” which describes for me the meaning of Christmas. It’s the story of a man born of Jewish parents who grew up in an obscure village working in a carpenter shop until he was 30 and then for 3 years as a preacher. And, as the story says, he never wrote a book, he never held an office, he never had a family, he never went to college, he never traveled 200 miles from the place where he was born. He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness.
While still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. One of them denied him. He was turned over to his enemies. He went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed upon a cross between two thieves. While he was dying, his executioners gambled for the only piece of property that he had on Earth. When he was dead he was taken down and laid in a borrowed grave.
Nineteen wide centuries have come and gone. And today he is the centerpiece of much of the human race. All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that were ever built, and all the parliaments that ever sat, and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon Earth as powerfully as this one solitary life.
I have always believed that the message of Jesus is one of hope and joy. I know there are those who recognize Christmas Day as the birthday of a great and good man, a wise teacher who gave us principles to live by. And then there are others of us who believe that he was the Son of God, that he was divine. If we live our lives for truth, for love, and for God, we never need be afraid. God will be with us, and He will be part of something much larger, much more powerful and enduring than any force here on Earth.
Now, tonight I have a very special person here with me to spread our Christmas joy. Her name is Amy Benham, and she comes all the way from Westport, Washington. Amy recently wrote the leaders of a public-spirited project named “Make A Wish” and said, “The Christmas tree that lights up for our country must be seen all the way to heaven. I would wish so much to help the President turn on those Christmas lights.”
Well, Amy, the nicest Christmas present I could receive is helping you make your dream come true. When you press the button over here—we’re going over there-the whole world will know that Amy Benham lit up the skies, sending America’s love, hope, and joy all the way to heaven and making the angels sing.
And now, you and I will walk over so you can light the tree. And then after that’s done we’ll all join in singing one of our favorite Christmas carols, “Joy to the World.” So, let’s go over here.
December 20, 1983
It is a very special pleasure for Nancy and me to extend warmest greetings and best wishes to all of you during this most joyous of holiday seasons.
This festive occasion is celebrated in many different ways. We exchange gifts, attend church services, decorate our homes and Christmas trees, and enjoy a family dinner. But perhaps the tradition that most warms the heart is the sound of Christmas music.
Of all the songs ever sung at Christmastime, the most wonderful of all was the song of exaltation heard by the shepherds while tending their flocks on the night of Christ’s birth. An angel of the Lord appeared to them and said: “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” Suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of voices praising the Heavenly Father and singing: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
Sometimes, in the hustle and bustle of holiday preparations we forget that the true meaning of Christmas was given to us by the angelic host that holy night long ago. Christmas is the commemoration of the birth of the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, whose message would truly be one of good tidings and great joy, peace and good will. During this glorious festival let us renew our determination to follow His example.
Won’t all of you join with Nancy and me in a prayer for peace and good will. May a feeling of love and cheer fill the hearts of everyone throughout this holiday season and in the coming year.
We hope this Christmas will be especially wonderful and that it will usher in a new year of peace and prosperity.
Radio Address to the Nation on Christmas
December 24, 1983
My fellow Americans:
Like so many of your homes, the White House is brimming with greens, colorful decorations, and a tree trimmed and ready for Christmas day. And when Nancy and I look out from our upstairs windows, we can see the National Christmas Tree standing in majestic beauty. Its lights fill the air with a spirit of love, hope, and joy from the heart of America.
I shared that spirit recently when a young girl named Amy Benham helped me light our national tree. Amy had said that the tree that lights up our country must be seen all the way to heaven. And she said that her wish was to help me turn on its lights. Well, Amy’s wish came true. But the greatest gift was mine, because I saw her eyes light up with hope and joy just as brightly as the lights on our national tree. And I’m sure they were both seen all the way to heaven, and they made the angels sing.
Christmas is a time for children, and rightly so. We celebrate the birthday of the Prince of Peace who came as a babe in a manger. Some celebrate Christmas as the birthday of a great teacher and philosopher. But to other millions of us, Jesus is much more. He is divine, living assurance that God so loved the world He gave us His only begotten Son so that by believing in Him and learning to love each other we could one day be together in paradise.
It’s been said that all the kings who ever reigned, that all the parliaments that ever sat have not done as much to advance the cause of peace on Earth and good will to men as the man from Galilee, Jesus of Nazareth.
Christmas is also a time to remember the treasures of our own history. We remember one Christmas in particular, 1776, our first year as a nation. The Revolutionary War had been going badly. But George Washington’s faith, courage, and leadership would turn the tide of history our way. On Christmas night he led a band of ragged soldiers across the Delaware River through driving snow to a victory that saved the cause of independence. It’s said that their route of march was stained by bloody footprints, but their spirit never faltered and their will could not be crushed.
The image of George Washington kneeling in prayer in the snow is one of the most famous in American history. He personified a people who knew it was not enough to depend on their own courage and goodness; they must also seek help from God, their Father and Preserver.
In a few hours, families and friends across America will join together in caroling parties and Christmas Eve services. Together, we’ll renew that spirit of faith, peace, and giving which has always marked the character of our people. In our moments of quiet reflection I know we will remember our fellow citizens who may be lonely and in need tonight.
“Is the Christmas spirit still alive?” some ask. Well, you bet it is. Being Americans, we open our hearts to neighbors less fortunate. We try to protect them from hunger and cold. And we reach out in so many ways—from toys-for-tots drives across the country, to good will by the Salvation Army, to American Red Cross efforts which provide food, shelter, and Christmas cheer from Atlanta to Seattle.
Churches are so generous it’s impossible to keep track. One example: Reverend Bill Singles’ Presbyterian Meeting House in nearby Alexandria, Virginia, is simultaneously sponsoring hot meals on wheels programs, making and delivering hundreds of sandwiches and box loads of clothes, while visiting local hospitals and sending postcards to shut-ins and religious dissidents abroad.
Let us remember the families who maintain a watch for their missing in action. And, yes, let us remember all those who are persecuted inside the Soviet bloc—not because they commit a crime, but because they love God in their hearts and want the freedom to celebrate Hanukkah or worship the Christ Child.
And because faith for us is not an empty word, we invoke the power of prayer to spread the spirit of peace. We ask protection for our soldiers who are guarding peace tonight—from frigid outposts in Alaska and the Korean demilitarized zone to the shores of Lebanon. One Lebanese mother told us that her little girl had only attended school 2 of the last 8 years. Now, she said, because of our presence there her daughter can live a normal life.
With patience and firmness we can help bring peace to that strife-torn region and make our own lives more secure. The Christmas spirit of peace, hope, and love is the spirit Americans carry with them all year round, everywhere we go. As long as we do, we need never be afraid, because trusting in God is the one sure answer to all the problems we face.
Till next week, thanks for listening, God bless you, and Merry Christmas.
CHRISTMAS IN WASHINGTON 1983
Remarks on Lighting the National Christmas Tree
December 13, 1984
Thank all of you so much for being here. In just a moment I’m going to push the button that lights the National Christmas Tree. This is an old White House tradition I’m happy to continue.
I was in the White House a few moments ago looking out at all of you down there surrounding the tree, and I thought of how God gives us moments that lift us and that bring us together. For many of us, Christmas is a deeply holy day, the birthday of the promised Messiah, the Son of God who came to redeem our sins and teach us that most needed of all lessons, “Peace on Earth, good will among men.” For others of us, Christmas marks the birth of a good, great man, a prophet whose teachings provide a pattern of living pertinent to all times and to all people. Either way, his message remains the guiding star of our endeavors.
I guess we all have our own favorite Christmas memories, for this is the time of year when most of us try to be better than our everyday selves.
For the past few years in this great house, I’ve thought of our first real Christmas as a nation. It was the dark and freezing Christmas of 1776, when General Washington and his troops crossed the Delaware. They and Providence gave our nation its first Christmas gift—a victory that brought us closer to liberty, the condition in which God meant man to flourish.
It always seems to me that Christmas is a time of magic. Each December we celebrate a Prince, the Prince of Peace, born in utter poverty. And the fact of his birth makes hearts turn warmest at the coldest time of the year.
Many of us do good at this time; most of us all mean to, but sometimes good intentions get lost in the hurry and bustle of the holiday season. Well, this is only the 13th day of December. We still have a dozen days to answer that letter of a child who wrote Santa Claus at the post office, or to buy an extra gift for a Toys for Tot program, or whatever. So, if you’ve forgotten to do it—well, do it, and do it tonight or tomorrow. One of the great messages of this season is that it’s never too late to touch a life and maybe change the world forever for someone.
Over the next few weeks let us all remember those who serve our country abroad—the 800,000 men and women in uniform, the members of our Foreign Service, the people who work in our information agencies throughout the world, and the men and women in the Peace Corps. Even though they can’t be at the table this Christmas, they must not be far from our hearts. And let me add, there is no one we hold in our hearts more closely than those MIA’s—those missing in action in Southeast Asia, some of whom may be serving our country still. They, too, are absent at the table, and the gathering will never be complete until they return or are accounted for.
Now, I know you’re all waiting, and in the immortal words of the astronaut Alan Shepard, “I’m going to stop talking and light the candle.” Light it in a nation at peace, a nation united, for the ties that bind still bind. So, now I light the Nation’s Christmas tree. May its thousand lights illuminate our best resolves and cast a great glow on our affection for each other, and our thanks for each other, and our love.
And do you know what? I’ve talked myself into the Christmas spirit. I’m going to give a gift right now. I’m not going to light the tree; I’m going to let Nancy do it. Where’s the button? Where do we go?
Message on the Observance of Christmas
December 21, 1984
Nancy and I are very pleased to send our warmest greetings to all those gathering with family, friends and neighbors to celebrate this Christmas season.
The first Christmas was a time of family joy for Joseph and Mary and the child Jesus. Although they had made a long journey to reach Bethlehem and were lodged in humble surroundings, they knew that the child Mary bore was a gift not to them alone, but to all mankind. The shepherds who gathered around the manger, and the wise men who traveled from the East to honor the King of Kings, knew that the star above Bethlehem was a guide not only for the pilgrims of that day, but for those in every age seeking the peace which passes understanding.
An early American hymn sang of the Christ-child that “this richest babe comes poor in being, more pearled within than to the seeing.” More than any gift or toy, ornament or tree, let us resolve that this Christmas shall be, like that first Christmas, a celebration of interior treasures. And let us resolve to share our many blessings with others now and in the year to come—from the hungry or the helpless near at hand to those in trouble or turmoil in distant lands from Africa to Asia and beyond.
Today, as we gather with our family and friends to honor Christ, we can experience the same peace and joy as the shepherds and the Magi did almost two thousand years ago. If we make that peace and joy a part of our lives, our example will serve as a guide and an inspiration for everyone we meet. Nancy and I pray that the joy of this holiday season will remain with us all throughout the coming year. May God bless you.
Christmas In Washington – Hark The Herald Angels Sing – 1984
Remarks on Lighting the National Christmas Tree
December 12, 1985
My fellow Americans, thank you for joining Nancy and me on this festive evening. The menorah stands lighted in Lafayette Park, for this is also the time of Hanukkah, and this season is rich in the meaning of our Judeo-Christian tradition. In a moment we’ll be lighting the National Christmas Tree, carrying forward what is now a 62-year tradition first begun by Calvin Coolidge.
Tonight we’re drawn in warmth to one another as we reflect upon the deeply holy meaning of the miracle we shall soon celebrate. We know that Mary and Joseph reached the stable in Bethlehem sometime after sunset. We do not know the exact moment the Christ Child was born, only what we would have seen if we’d been standing there as we stand here now: Suddenly, a star from heaven shining in our eyes, shining with brilliant beauty across the skies, a star pointing toward eternity in the night, like a great ring of pure and endless light, and then all was calm, and all was bright. Such was the beginning of one solitary life that would shake the world as never before or since. When we speak of Jesus and of His life, we speak of a man revered as a prophet and teacher by people of all religions, and Christians speak of someone greater—a man who was and is divine. He brought forth a power that is infinite and a promise that is eternal, a power greater than all mankind’s military might, for His power is Godly love, love that can lift our hearts and soothe our sorrows and heal our wounds and drive away our fears. He promised there will never be a long night that does not end. He promised to deliver us from dark torment and tragedy into the warming sunlight of human happiness, and beyond that, into paradise. He’s never been a halfway giver; His generosity is pure and perfect and sure.
This, then, expresses the true meaning of Christmas. If each of us could give but a fraction to one another of what He gave to the whole human family, how many hearts could heal, how much sorrow and pain could be driven away? There’s still time for joy and gladness to touch a sad and lonely soul, still time to feed a hungry child, to wrap a present for a kind old man feeling forlorn and afraid, and to reach out to an abandoned mother raising children on her own. There’s still time to remember our Armed Forces, to express our profound gratitude to those keeping watch on faraway frontiers of freedom, and to redouble our energies to account for our MIA’s. They are not and never will be forgotten. And there’s still time to remember the deepest truth of all: that there can be no prisons, no walls, no boundaries separating the members of God’s family.
Let us reach out tonight to every person who is persecuted; let us embrace and comfort, support and love them. Let us come together as one family under the fatherhood of God, binding ourselves in a communion of hearts, for tonight and tomorrow and for all time. May we give thanks for an America abundantly blessed, for a nation united, free, and at peace. May we carry forward the happiness of the Christmas spirit as the guiding star of our endeavors 365 days a year. And as we light this magnificent tree, may all the youthful hope and joy of America light up the heavens and make the angels sing.
Merry Christmas, and God bless you all. And now we’re going to light the tree.
[At this point, the National Christmas Tree, which was located on the Ellipse, south of the White House grounds, was lighted.]
Message on the Observance of Christmas
December 18, 1985
Nancy and I are pleased to share our warmest greetings with all Americans during the celebration of this Christmas season.
Amid all the hubbub and hustle this time of year always brings, we should not forget the simple beauty of that first Christmas long ago. Joseph and Mary, far from home and huddled in a place barely fit for habitation, felt the universal love that binds all families together and a unique awe at the special purpose for which God had chosen them. Gathering around them first the shepherds and later, the Magi—poor and rich, humble and great, native and foreign—each bowed before the King whose dominion knows no boundaries. Above them was the Star, the guiding light which would shine down through the centuries for everyone seeking the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
In the center of all lay the infant, born in the shadows and straw of a stable in Bethlehem, yet truly the fulfillment of ancient prophecies and the hope of every age to come.
Today, as we celebrate the birth of Christ in our homes and churches, among family and friends, and by our many different traditions, let us accept and share the generous gifts of joy, peace, and love given on that first Christmas. May we honor them in our hearts and keep them through the year.
Nancy and I pray that this Christmas will be a time of hope and happiness not only for our nation but for all people of the world. Merry Christmas, and God bless you.
Message on the Observance of Orthodox Christmas
January 6, 1986
My Dear Friends,
On behalf of my fellow Americans, I am honored to send you our warmest greetings on this day, this deeply holy day of Christmas for Orthodox and other Christian believers around the world including within the Soviet Union.
The date that you and we celebrate Christmas may be different. But the meaning and magnificence of what we celebrate-the divine birth of one man, hero, strong yet tender, Prince of Peace—is the same. This birth brought forth good tidings of great joy to all people. For unto us was born this day a Savior who is Christ the Lord.
We are told there are up to 100 million believers in the Soviet Union alone. Whether you are from Russia, Ukraine, Byelorussia, Armenia, Georgia, the Baltic states, or elsewhere inside the Soviet Union—please know that we in America join you as one family under the Fatherhood of God, binding ourselves in a communion of hearts, for today and tomorrow and for all time. Know, too, our heartfelt desire that this day will kindle in all men that spirit which alone can bring us real peace on earth.
Peace is the condition of life for which all fervently pray. Of the many apparent paths to peace, we have seen one path that does lead to peace, the same path illuminated by Jesus Christ—the path of truth and love and humility. Millions of Americans join you our brothers and sisters in a common struggle to overcome the barriers to peace—false. hood, selfishness and pride, whose bitter fruit becomes a thirst for power and domination.
God’s commandment that we love our neighbor as we love ourselves is a commandment to respect the God-given rights of our fellow man—it is the commandment of freedom and of peace. Let us take heart knowing that our power to fulfill His commandment is not material but spiritual; and let us remember that no force on Earth can ever destroy the love of God that burns in our hearts. In the words of the prophet Isaiah: He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth their strength . . . they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings of eagles; they shall run and not be weary.
On this special night I would like to say a prayer of my own—a prayer that God Will touch and bless each of you in a most special way. And may we pray together, to. night and every night this year, that God’s message of peace may touch the hearts of all His children—especially those upon whom we depend to make and keep peace in the world.
God bless you.
Message on the Observance of Christmas
December 11, 1986
Every December across America the images of the Christmas season accumulate as this great holiday approaches. Preparations are made in homes and churches and shops in every city and town, and the land is full of traditional signs and symbols of its coming: Fresh snow resting lightly on the holly bush, package-laden crowds crushing the storefronts and bus stops, strings of lights gleaming from the housetops, chestnut vendors and street corner Santas, school plays with children dressed—hardly needing the costume—as angels, and choirs joining heart and voice in joyous song.
Because of these traditions, no Christmas celebration truly stands alone. For most of us, the holidays bring back such a trove of memories, evoked by things as simple as the scent of pine or the painted scene on a greeting card, that our Christmases become not separate events on a calendar but a chain in which all are linked together as one. This is as it should be, for Christmas is a holiday that we celebrate not as individuals nor as a nation, but as a human family—and not merely as a family living in this age and time, but as a family linked through history, in ways we still cannot fully comprehend, to that First Christmas in Bethlehem.
May our prayers this Christmas call forth that serenity of heart and confidence in the future that are the best of all possible gifts. May the song of our people be one of thanks for God’s blessings on America and of petition for His continued blessings upon us, especially on those who face this Christmas in want or loneliness. Let us raise our hearts and voices in common song for the reign of peace and the rule of goodwill, that in the words of the carol, all may celebrate “everywhere, everywhere, Christmas tonight.”
Nancy joins me in wishing all Americans a Christmas of true peace and a New Year filled with happiness and joy.
Remarks on Lighting the National Christmas Tree
December 11, 1986
Well, to all of you at the White House, to all those listening on the Ellipse, and to the millions more joining us this evening by way of radio and television: Good evening, and welcome to the lighting of the National Christmas Tree. A special word of greeting to some special people with me here at the White House, members of the Washington, DC, Big Brothers and Big Sisters programs. In these programs, grownups give of their time to youngsters, each adult getting together regularly with a boy or girl—a little brother or a sister—taking him or her to the park or zoo, or on a camping trip, or maybe just answering questions about life. My friends, I can’t tell you how honored Nancy and I are to welcome you here this evening to this, the home that belongs to all Americans. For in this Christmas season, you remind us all of the greatest gift we can give to each other is the gift of ourselves.
Now, my friends, beyond the White House lawn—South Lawn, across the street on the Ellipse, in the darkness, there stands a tall shaggy shape-our National Christmas Tree. In a moment Byron Whyte will join Nancy and me in pressing the button, and that dark shape will come alive, blazing with color and light. But before we light the tree, let’s just talk for a moment about why Christmas trees have become such an important part of the Christmas celebration.
For some Christmas just marks the birth of a great philosopher and prophet, a great and good man. To others, it marks something still more: the pinnacle of all history, the moment when the God of all creation— in the words of the creed, God from God and light from light—humbled himself to become a baby crying in a manger. To everyone Christmas is a time of happiness and cheer, a time of peace and good will and glad tidings.
And this brings us to the custom of the Christmas tree. For the ancestors from whom we inherited this Christmas tree believed that the glad tidings of Christmas were of such power, of such beauty and life-giving force, that they affected not only the human heart but extended to all creation. And in decorating trees, Christmas trees, they expressed their belief that on one special day of the year nature itself seems to join the angel choirs and little children and all mankind in a great and solemn celebration. The song puts it so well: “O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, your boughs can teach a lesson. That constant faith and hope sublime, lend strength and comfort through all time.”
Well, I’ve spoken long enough for a wintry evening like this. It’s time to push the button used by every President since Calvin Coolidge in lighting our National Christmas Tree. And Nancy and Byron, let’s see if we can’t turn this cold dark evening into one of light and warmth.
All right. Push the light.
Remarks on Signing the 1987 National Day of Prayer Proclamation
December 22, 1986
I’m delighted to be able to welcome you as we gather for a few moments here to sign this proclamation declaring May 7th our National Day of Prayer for the coming year. No one can hold this office without noticing that prayer is something deeply woven into the fabric of our history, that indeed spiritual values are essential to the successful life of a democracy. It was George Washington himself who said: “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.”
Throughout our history, our leaders have always turned to prayer in times of crisis. All of us know how George Washington knelt in the snow at Valley Forge to ask for divine assistance when the fate of our nation hung in the balance. Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation shortly after the battle of Gettysburg entreating the Nation to pray for “perfect enjoyment of union and fraternal peace.” And after the shock of Pearl Harbor, Franklin Roosevelt told us he took courage from the thought that “the vast majority of the members of the human race” joined us in a common prayer for victory as we fought for “liberty under God.”
Prayer, of course, is deeply personal. Many of us have been taught to pray by people we love. In my case, it was my mother. I learned quite literally at her knee. My mother gave me a great deal, but nothing she gave me was more important than that special gift, the knowledge of the happiness and solace to be gained by talking to the Lord. The way we pray depends both on our religious convictions and our own individual dispositions, but the light of prayer has a common core. It is our hopes and our aspirations, our sorrows and fears, our deep remorse and renewed resolve, our thanks and joyful praise, and most especially our love, all turned toward a loving God. The Talmud calls prayer the “service of the heart,” and St. Paul urged us to “pray without ceasing.”
Of course, it’s important to remember that prayer doesn’t always mean asking God to give us something. Prayer can also be a vehicle for worship—for recognition of the supreme reality, the reality of God and His love. Worshipful prayer seems especially appropriate in this holiday season, when in Hanukkah we celebrate God’s faithfulness to the Jewish nation and in Christmas we mark the birth of One whom some honor as a great and holy prophet and others adore as the Son of God. Listen, if you will, for a moment to the words of the Scriptures:
“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.'”
Perhaps, in our own prayers we would do well to remember the words of the heavenly host on that one still night so long ago, each of us in our own way giving glory to God and asking in all earnestness for peace on Earth, and good will toward men.
So, thank you, and God bless you all. And now I shall sign the proclamation. And, of course, you don’t have to wait until May 7th. [Laughter]
Remarks on Lighting the National Christmas Tree
December 7, 1987 (Presidents remarks 37:20 minute mark)
My fellow citizens, the 1987 Pageant of Peace has a special significance this year. The lighting of the National Christmas Tree with its Star of Peace atop could not come at a more symbolic moment. Two hours ago, General Secretary Gorbachev’s plane touched down on American soil. I invited him to come and discuss ways in which we can reduce the tensions between our two countries. He and I will meet in hopes of promoting peace for our peoples and all the people of the Earth.
I hope the General Secretary is watching this on TV. I’d like him to see what we’re celebrating, because for us, Christmas celebrates the cause of peace on Earth, good will toward men.
Peace on Earth, good will toward men—I cannot think of a better spirit in which to begin the meetings of the next several days. As a small reminder of that spirit, the Star of Peace atop the National Christmas Tree will be lit day and night during the time our Soviet guests are here. And as we look out from the White House during our discussions, let the star remind us why we’ve gathered and what we seek.
In Luke, chapter 10, verse 5, we read: “Peace be to this house.” That blessing is most appropriate over the next several days. And with that said, Tommy Valente will light the National Christmas Tree, and let the Star of Peace shine for all of us.
Message on the Observance of Christmas, 1987
December 23, 1987
Christmas, as the carol tells us, is “the most wonderful time of the year.” We see it in the excited eyes of a child—an excitement easy to explain. What with the sights of brilliantly decorated trees, the sounds of familiar hymns and songs, and tastes of fresh-baked cookies and other treats, and above all the long-anticipated visit from St. Nick, Christmas for children is a time unlike any other.
That is true for grownups as well, of course; the joy and meaning of Christmas only deepen as we grow older. We still find pleasure in exchanging greetings and gifts, and we still delight in the warm and colorful images of the holiday. But we perceive ever more clearly, as did Scrooge, that the true beauty and wonder of the season lie in the Christmas spirit of giving of ourselves for others—the message of the Prince of Peace whose birth we celebrate. At Christmastime we accompany shepherds and Wise Men to the stable as of old, where we relearn the timeless and priceless lessons of love, humility and sacrifice, where we see the Christmas spirit as God’s love flowing through so many people all at once.
This spirit of love, as simple as a spoken greeting and as profound as a changed heart, seems so full that it ceaselessly looks for ways to express its power. We respond to it best when we share it with family, friend or stranger—when we recognize that, under the sheltering evergreen branches of God’s love, all are family and no one is a stranger. When we do these things, when we visit the lonely or help those in need, when a family is reconciled, Christmas is real and present, and that is truly what makes it “the most wonderful time of the year.”
Nancy and I pray that peace and joy will reign in every home and every heart during this holy season. Merry Christmas, and may God’s blessing be upon us all.
Remarks on Lighting the National Christmas Tree
December 15, 1988 (Presidents Remarks at 47:50 minute mark)
Merry Christmas, Joe, and a very Merry Christmas to all! Nancy and I are together with you in celebration and reflection-celebration of the great miracle nearly 2,000 years ago that brought the Christ child to us and reflection on the great gifts He has bestowed upon us.
Christmas casts its glow upon us, as it does every year. And it reminds us that we need not feel lonely because we are loved, loved with the greatest love there has ever been or ever will be. In the bustle and rush of daily life, we sometimes forget how very much we have and how much we have to thank God for providing for things as beautiful as a winter snow or babies who will be seeing their first Christmas, seeing the wonder of its beauty in their eyes. And, yes, from the poorest among us to the most fortunate, we are all blessed.
Christmas reminds us, as well, that He taught us all we need to know about caring for our fellow man and to take responsibility for the very condition of the world. Thus we must reflect: We must ever reflect upon the love we have for others and the joy we take in giving of ourselves to those who are less fortunate. From those who must depend on charity to see that their children receive a Christmas present to the tragic victims of famine and earthquake worldwide, we know what it is we must do and how ennobling an experience it is to have done it.
We Americans live with bounties that those who lived at the time of the Christ child’s birth could never have imagined. The bounties are material, yes, but chiefly they are spiritual. Those who would worship the birth of our Lord may do so in the church of their choosing and in the way of their choosing. Those among us who do not so celebrate the birth are free to share with us in this, our time of joy. In this day, when our freedom to worship is most precious, let us redouble our efforts to bring this and other greatest freedoms to all the peoples of the Earth.
May we give thanks for a free America, an America united in the wonder of a season that includes not only Christmas but Hanukkah as well. And as we light this glorious tree, may Nancy and I offer a final wish to all Americans: that every Christmas that follows will be as full of joy as we have these past years to work in your service. May God bless you all. And now Nancy will help me light the tree. And again, a very Merry Christmas.
Message on the Observance of Christmas
December 19, 1988
The themes of Christmas and of coming home for the holidays have long been intertwined in song and story. There is a profound irony and lesson in this, because Christmas celebrates the coming of a Savior Who was born without a home.
There was no room at the inn for the Holy Family. Weary of travel, a young Mary close to childbirth and her carpenter husband Joseph found but the rude shelter of a stable. There was born the King of Kings, the Prince of Peace—an event on which all history would turn. Jesus would again be without a home, and more than once; on the flight to Egypt and during His public ministry, when He said, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath no where to lay his head.”
From His very infancy, on, our Redeemer was reminding us that from then on we would never lack a home in Him. Like the shepherds to whom the angel of the Lord appeared on the first Christmas Day, we could always say, “Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.”
As we come home with gladness to family and friends this Christmas, let us also remember our neighbors who cannot go home themselves. Our compassion and concern this Christmas and all year long will mean much to the hospitalized, the homeless, the convalescent, the orphaned—and will surely lead us on our way to the joy and peace of Bethlehem and the Christ Child Who bids us come. For it is only in finding and living the eternal meaning of the Nativity that we can be truly happy, truly at peace, truly home.
Merry Christmas, and God bless you!
President Reagan Introduced By Jimmy Stewart At The Close Of His Final Christmas In Washington 1988