God Rest You Merry

December 25, 1990

One thing we celebrate this Christmas is that more people are joining with us, openly, than have in any Christmas in memory. This was true as well for Hanukkah. Freedom to think and pray and celebrate has penetrated to previously forbidden corners of the world.

This can be chaotic. It is not immediately rewarding in a material sense. But it has let people pray, put up Christmas lights, or burn Hanukkah candles, who previously dared not.

Christmas speaks to family life. In country after country, governments have withdrawn their insufferable control of that. Christmas speaks to warmth, and does remind us that a certain level of wealth -- not much -- is necessary to that.

Christmas speaks to happiness. Great material possession is not prerequisite, but what might be called a secure subsistence is. Christmas is generosity, and generosity is sore-tested in a recession, when anxiety penetrates prosperity.

The turkey will not survive more than a few days. Some of the toys will fare no better. The tree will stay another week in some houses, 12 days in others. The generosity of spirit is the part of Christmas that should be cherished and nurtured and made to survive through the seasons.

Life is not all plum pudding. But life can be filling, life can glow, life can bring love and good fellowship, life can be filled with goodwill toward others, indeed, toward all.

Christmas has not pervaded the whole world this day. No turkeys fill the plates of many in Sudan. Confusion and desperation reign in Russia. There is little joy in Bethlehem. In Afghanistan, people fight for they know not what. In China, improvements to life were rolled back. In Iraq, multitudes quiver for the folly of their ruler, yet dare not betray their fear for fear of paying dearer.

In Washington, many are homeless. So are their kin in Baltimore. Too many of our homes and streets know violence, where no goodwill dwells. We are raising some young people to believe in nothing, not even in themselves.

Yet the world's most awesome powers are at peace with each other for the first time. The leadership of the world as reflected in the Security Council of the United Nations is united in moral purpose as never previously.

The revolution of communications has shorn the world of its dark secrets. There is not more hunger, but more knowledge of the hunger there is. This is the first generation that dared to think of security and health as universal rights, and so the first to be so dismayed at their denial.

Most of us have what matters most, like the glow of a candle, the light of belief in the eyes of a child. These things are restored this season, stocked like a squirrel's nuts to last till spring. That's what all this bustle was for, and well worth it many times over. Merry Christmas to all.

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