Friday, December 19, 2008

Happy Holidays

Another year has passed far too quickly. In writing this week's "EC from DC" I looked back at the last few months of newsletters and it struck me how very little good news there was in 2008. There is no doubt as a nation we are charting the roughest seas in several generations.

But, there is hope and light, love and friendship in these times. Often in our nation's darkest hours we have reached deep and stunned the world with our ingenuity, compassion, and wisdom. And so that is our charge in the coming year.

Like you, I am looking forward to spending the holidays with my family. Every year we make the pilgrimage to my father's house in Texas to celebrate our togetherness. In ways, both literally and spiritually, Christmas is about finding our way home.

A few years ago, I shared with you a holiday message from President Truman delivered on Christmas Eve, 1948. He had come home, as he always did, to Bess's house at 219 North Delaware in Independence. I was out that direction last week and you can just imagine what it was like for the President. He mentions the sights and sounds of his street, a street that is virtually unchanged since he lived there. It is easy, even now, what he must have experienced making the turn from what was then 15th Street (now Truman Rd.) onto Delaware.

Bess and Margaret came home to Independence far prior to the President's arrival, neither being that fond of Washington, D.C. The President, however, always remained in Washington until after the staff party and then returned home for Christmas Eve.

So from his easy chair in Bess's front room, he pushed a button that lit the National Christmas Tree on the lawn of the White House and in that time of toil and turmoil delivered a message as appropriate and heartwarming today as it was in 1948.

"My fellow countrymen: I now light the National Community Christmas Tree on the lawn of the White House in Washington.

I have come out here to Independence with my family to celebrate the great home festival. For of all the days of the year Christmas is the family day. Christmas began that way.

The moving event of the first Christmas was the bringing forth of the first born in the stable in Bethlehem. There began in humble surroundings the home life of the Holy Family glorified in song and story and in the hearts of men down through the centuries. The great joys and mysteries of that event have forever sanctified and enriched all home life.

The Christmas tree which we have just lighted in the South Grounds of the White House back in Washington symbolizes the family life of the Nation. There are no ties like family ties. That is why I have made the journey back to Independence to celebrate this Christmas Day among the familiar scenes and associations of my old hometown.

These family ties reach out tonight to embrace the town, the State, the country, all of America-the whole world. The hallowed associations of Christmas draw all hearts toward home. With one accord we receive with joy and reverence the message of the first Christmas: "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will to men".

This country, big as it has grown, has always been a close-knit community. It has had to be strong, too.

We needed the strength of giants and heroic courage to bring nature and the elements under control; to build our towns and that is particularly true here in Independence-and to extend our frontiers. We all know what the covered wagon symbolized.

But with all our strength we have always had a deep feeling of compassion-a human sympathy for the underdog, the oppressed of all lands, for all who bear heavy burdens. That is a part of the American spirit. I

have been thinking of all these things here in my home on North Delaware Street in Independence. I am speaking to you from our family living room. As I came up the street in the gathering dusk, I saw a hundred commonplace things that are hallowed to me on this Christmas Eve----hallowed because of their associations with the sanctuary of home.

I saw the lighted windows in the homes of my neighbors, the gaily decked Christmas trees, and the friendly lawns and gardens. The branches of the trees were bare and stark but somehow they looked familiar and friendly. I looked at all these familiar things-the same things that you all will see tonight as you go toward home.

These are the thoughts-simple, commonplace, everyday thoughts-that we all share tonight.

They are the thoughts that bind us together, one to another. They make up the great American epic---the epic of the home.

Yes, America is a big, friendly community. Maybe that is why we realize that we are a part of the whole world. We have had difficult problems, and that is why we can understand the problems of other peoples.

Our own struggle fostered this feeling of good will. And good will, after all, is the very essence of Christmas: peace and friendship to men of good will.

I want to say once more, with all the emphasis that I can command, that I am working for peace. I shall continue to work for peace. What could be more appropriate than for all of us to dedicate ourselves to the cause of peace on this Holy Night.

As a Nation we have a history of a little more than a century and a half. But the religion which came to the world heralded by the song of the Angels has endured for nineteen centuries. It will continue to endure. It remains today the world's best hope for peace if the world will accept its fundamental teaching that all men are brothers.

"God that made the world and all things therein . . . hath made of one blood all nations of man for to dwell on all the face of the earth." In the spirit of that message from the Acts of the Apostles, I wish all of you a Merry Christmas."

My warmest wishes to you and yours,