Last week my research took me to a speech that President Harry Truman gave on December 24, 1946, at the lighting ceremony for the National Christmas Tree. These portions that I am sharing with you today were so well-spoken that I simply don’t want to wait until next Christmas to share them. I want the message to encourage you and me today.
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Fellow citizens everywhere:
Again our thoughts and aspirations and the hopes of future years turn to a little town in the hills of Judea where on a winter’s night two thousand years ago the prophecy of Isaiah was fulfilled. Shepherds keeping the watch by night over their flock heard the glad tidings of great joy from the angels of the Lord singing, “Glory to God in the Highest and on Earth, peace, good will toward men.” The message of Bethlehem best sums up our hopes tonight. If we as a nation, and the other nations of the world, will accept it, the star of faith will guide us into the place of peace as it did the shepherds on that day of Christ’s birth long ago.
I am sorry to say all is not harmony in the world today. We have found that it is easier for men to die together on the field of battle [World War II had ended only 16 months before] than it is for them to live together at home in peace. But those who died have died in vain if in some measure, at least, we shall not preserve for the peace that spiritual unity in which we won the war . . . .
Selfishness and greed, individual or national, cause most of our troubles. He whose birth we celebrate tonight was the world’s greatest teacher. He said: “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them; for this is the law and the prophets.” Through all the centuries since He spoke, history has vindicated His teaching.
In this great country of ours has been demonstrated the fundamental unity of Christianity and democracy. Under our heritage of freedom for everyone on equal terms, we also share the responsibilities of government. Our support of individual freedom–free speech, free schools, free press, and a free conscience–transcends all our differences . . . . We have our unique national heritage because of a common aspiration to be free and because of our purpose to achieve for ourselves and for our children the good things of life which the Christ declared He came to give to all mankind.
We have made a good start toward peace in the world. Ahead of us lies the larger task of making the peace secure. The progress we have made gives hope that in the coming year we shall reach our goal. May 1947 entitle us to the benediction of the Master: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.”
Because of what we have achieved for peace, because of all the promise our future holds, I say to all my countrymen: Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas, and may God bless you all!
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Truman’s words encouraged me, and I hope that they encourage you, too. As much as you and I grieve over the division we see around us, think about how much it must grieve the heart of God. These are His very own creations who are divided. Let’s all make peace. As much as we want peace for ourselves, for our children, and for our country, let’s be peacemakers as a gift to God. Let’s bring joy to His heart. To paraphrase President Truman: May 2021 entitle us to the benediction of the Master: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.”
Pursue peace with all people,
and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God;
that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble,
and by it many become defiled . . . .