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Address at the Lighting of the National Community Christmas Tree on the White House Grounds

December 24, 1946

[Broadcast nationally at 5:15 p.m.]

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 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.

The problems facing the United Nations-the world's hope for peace--would overwhelm faint hearts. But, as we continue to labor for an enduring peace through that great organization, we must remember that the world was not created in a day. We shall find strength and courage at this Christmas time because so brave a beginning has been made. So with faith and courage we shall work to hasten the day when the sword is replaced by the plowshare and nations do not "learn war any more."

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. Although we may not hope for a New Heaven and a New Earth in our day and generation; we may strive with undaunted faith and courage to achieve in the present some measure of that unity with which the Nation's sons and the sons of our allies went forth to win the war.

We have this glorious land not because of a particular religious faith, not because our ancestors sailed from a particular foreign port. 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!