EDITORIAL – What can we learn about Christmas from past and present presidents of the United States? What follows is a collection of quotes from various presidents.
“Your annual Christmas service . . . is a dramatic and inspiring event of national interest. It symbolizes and vivifies our greatest Christian festival with its eternal message of unselfishness, joy, and peace.” – Herbert Hoover, Dec. 25, 1931
Around the Manger of the Babe of Bethlehem “all Nations and kindreds and tongues” find unity. . . . The spirit of Christmas breathes an eternal message of peace and good-will to all men. We pause, therefore, on this Holy Night and . . . rejoice that nineteen hundred years ago, heralded by angels, there came into the world One whose message was of peace, who gave to all mankind a new commandment of love. In that message of love and of peace we find the true meaning of Christmas. And so I greet you with the greeting of the Angels on that first Christmas at Bethlehem which, resounding through centuries, still rings out with its eternal message: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good-will to men.” – Franklin Roosevelt, Dec. 24, 1935
There are many men and women in America – sincere and faithful men and women – who are asking themselves this Christmas. . . . 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 put the world aside . . . to rejoice in the birth of Christ? . . . 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. – Frankline Roosevelt, Dec. 24, 1941 (After the attack at Pearl Harbor)
‘This is the Christmas that a war-weary world has prayed for through long and awful years. . . . We meet in the spirit of the first Christmas, when the midnight choir sang the hymn of joy: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Let us not forget that the coming of the Savior brought a time of long peace to the Roman World. . . . From the manger of Bethlehem came a new appeal to the minds and hearts of men: “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another.” . . . Would that the world would accept that message in this time of its greatest need! . . . We must strive without ceasing to make real the prophecy of Isaiah: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning-hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” In this day, whether it be far or near, the Kingdoms of this world shall become indeed the Kingdom of God and He will reign forever and ever, Lord of Lords and King of Kings.’ – Harry Truman, Dec. 24, 1949
We were taught by Him whose birth we commemorate that after death there is life. . . . In these last 200 years we have guided the building of our Nation and our society by those principles and precepts brought to earth nearly 2,000 years ago on that first Christmas. – Lyndon Johnson, Dec. 22, 1963
As we gather here before our Nation’s Christmas tree, symbolic of the communion of Americans at Christmastime, we remind ourselves of the eternal truths by which we live. . . . In our 200 years, we Americans have always honored the spiritual testament of 2,000 years ago. We embrace the spirit of the Prince of Peace so that we might find peace in our own hearts and in our own land, and hopefully in the world as well. – Gerald Ford, Dec. 1975
In the first Christmas, the people who lived in the land of the Jews were hoping for a Messiah. They prayed God to send them that savior, and when the shepherds arrived at the place to see their prayers answered they didn’t find a king, they found a little baby. And I’m sure they were very disappointed to see that God had not answered their prayers properly, but we Christians know that the prayers had been answered in a very wonderful way. God knew how to answer prayer. – Jimmy Carter, Dec. 1980
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. . . . Tonight, in millions of American homes, the glow of the Christmas tree is a reflection of the love Jesus taught us. . . . Christmas means so much because of one special child. – Ronald Reagan, Dec. 23, 1981
“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.” – Ronald Reagan, Dec. 16, 1982
“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. . . . 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.” – Ronald Reagan, Dec. 12, 1985
“During the beautiful and holy season of Christmas, our hearts are filled with the same wonder, gratitude, and joy that led the psalmist of old to ask, “When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained, What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? And the son of man, that Thou visitest him?” At Christmas, we, too, rejoice in the mystery of God’s love for us – love revealed through the gift of Christ’s birth. Born into a family of a young carpenter and his wife, in a stable shared by beasts of the field, our Savior came to live among ordinary men. Yet, in time, the miraculous nature of this simple event became clear. Christ’s birth changed the course of history, bringing the light of hope to a world dwelling in the darkness of sin and death. Today, nearly 2,000 years later, the shining promise of that first Christmas continues to give our lives a sense of peace and purpose. Our words and deeds, when guided by the example of Christ’s life, can help others share in the joy of man’s Redemption.” – George Bush, Dec. 18, 1989
“Saint Matthew’s Gospel tells us that on the first Christmas 2000 years ago, a bright star shone vividly in the eastern sky, heralding the birth of Jesus and the beginning of His hallowed mission as teacher, healer, servant, and savior. . . . His luminous teachings have brought hope and joy to generations of believers. . . . His timeless message of God’s enduring and unconditional love for each and every person continues to strengthen and inspire us. . . . Love, peace, joy, hope – so many beautiful words are woven through our Christmas songs and prayers and traditions.” – Bill Clinton, Dec. 21, 1999
Now once again, we celebrate Christmas in a time of testing, with American troops far from home. . . . It is worth recalling the words from a beautiful Christmas hymn. In the third verse of “Oh Holy Night” we sing, “His law is love, and His gospel is peace. Chains ye shall break, for the slave is our brother. And in His name all oppression shall cease. . . . We fight so that oppression may cease, and even in the midst of war, we pray for peace on Earth and good will to men. – George W. Bush, Dec. 2001
For 89 years, Presidents and Americans have come together to light the National Christmas Tree. And this year is a special one. This year, we have a brand new tree. The last one stood here for more than 30 years — until we lost it in a storm earlier this year. But we all know that this tradition is much larger than any single tree. And tonight, once again, we gather here not simply to light some decorations, but to honor a story that lights the world.
More than 2,000 years ago, a child was born to two faithful travelers who could find rest only in a stable, among the cattle and the sheep. But this was not just any child. Christ’s birth made the angels rejoice and attracted shepherds and kings from afar. He was a manifestation of God’s love for us. And He grew up to become a leader with a servant’s heart who taught us a message as simple as it is powerful: that we should love God, and love our neighbor as ourselves.
That teaching has come to encircle the globe. It has endured for generations. And today, it lies at the heart of my Christian faith and that of millions of Americans. No matter who we are, or where we come from, or how we worship, it’s a message that can unite all of us on this holiday season.
So long as the gifts and the parties are happening, it’s important for us to keep in mind the central message of this season, and keep Christ’s words not only in our thoughts, but also in our deeds. In this season of hope, let’s help those who need it most –- the homeless, the hungry, the sick and shut in. In this season of plenty, let’s reach out to those who struggle to find work or provide for their families. In this season of generosity, let’s give thanks and honor to our troops and our veterans, and their families who’ve sacrificed so much for us. And let’s welcome all those who are happily coming home.
And this holiday season, let us reaffirm our commitment to each other, as family members, as neighbors, as Americans, regardless of our color or creed or faith. Let us remember that we are one, and we are a family. – Barack Obama, Dec. 1, 2011