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Merry Christmas from Ronald Reagan

Often overlooked when contemplating the life and presidency of Ronald Reagan are his strong faith and his deep understanding that it is the “twin beacons of faith and freedom [that] have brightened the American sky,” as he eloquently described in his first Christmas address as President, on December 23, 1981.

In that address, he said, “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 years 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.”

And so He is.

What is striking about Reagan, and what is so clearly absent from our nation’s leadership today, is his understanding of the role faith has played – and, indeed, must continue to play – in guiding our nation at all times on an individual, and yes, a collective, basis. He continued in his address thusly:

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 fallen, but trusting in God’s help we’ve never lost our way.

It is worth watching his remarks, which you can do here.

The full text can be found below, which is followed by the full text of the former President’s remarks at the lighting of the National Christmas Tree in 1983, in which he said, “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.”

Amen. And Merry Christmas to you all.

December 23, 1981

Good Evening,

At Christmas time, every home takes on a special beauty a special warmth. And that’s certainly true at 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.

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 years 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 fallen, 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 the 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.
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, who said it so well in A Christmas Carol, “God bless us, every one.”

Good night.

********

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.

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