Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas with the President...1942

I meant to post last week, but never got around to it. I have been making an effort to post at least once a week if I can. This time of year is really busy though. I'm hoping either later this week or next to do my post about New Year's goals. We'll see.

I found this article an old Christmas annual from 1942 my mom has. I was looking for something to read to the senior center my dad preaches at once a month. This really spoke to me and I wanted to share it with everyone here too. I'd really like to hear what you think of it. Didn't it speak to you too? (I don't like that phrase, speak to you, but couldn't think of another way to say it.) Enjoy!

Christmas with the President
There have been many Christmas celebrations in the family circles of our presidents; but the Christmas of the year of our Lord 1941 will no doubt go down in history as one of the most significant ever observed in the White House. The previous Christmas had been the occasion of a real family celebration in the home of our Chief Executive. President and Mrs. Franklin Delano Roosevelt had observed the day much as it had been kept in millions of Christian homes the country over. Around a huge Christmas tree the President’s mother and most of their children and grandchildren had been gathered for the Yuletide festivities.

Last Christmas season, however, found conditions quite different. Our country was at war. The events of Pearl Harbor were still a vivid memory. The President’s time was crowded with the duties and responsibilities incumbent upon the commander-in-chief of our armed forces. The war spirit all but invaded the Executive Mansion. Heavily armed soldiers paraded endlessly around the White House grounds. Police and Secret Service men stood watch. Instead of having his children and grandchildren around him, the President had a great number of statesmen, generals, admirals, and Cabinet officers. As house-guest he had Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of Great Britain, who had secretly traveled across the Atlantic for an important war council with the President.

Those were eventful days. On Christmas Eve time was taken from the m
any conferences for a brief ceremony. The President pressed the magic button to light the National Christmas Tree. He spoke a short greeting to the thousands that had been admitted to the White House grounds. Mr. Churchill was at his side. To a crowd less exuberant, more reverent than he had addressed on previous Christmases, Mr. Roosevelt said: “Against enemies who preach the principles of hate and practice them, we set our faith in human love and in God’s care for us and all mean everywhere.” Mr. Churchill also spoke. His remarks and those of the President were broadcast to the nation. “Let the children have their night of fun and laughter,” said Mr. Churchill. “. . . . By our sacrifice and daring, these same children shall not be robbed of their inheritance, or denied the right to live in a free and decent world.”

The two men stood together as the Marine Band played
The Star-Spangled Banner and God Save the King; they joined in singing Christmas carols.

A little sidelight on the events of that week was given by Mrs. Roosevelt in her syndicated column on December 24:
Washington, Tuesday—I was late arriving at the Office of Civilian Defense yesterday morning because the President, who had been very mysterious as to what was going to happen over these holidays, finally decided to tell me that the British Prime Minister, Mr. Winston Churchill, and his party were arriving sometime in the late afternoon or evening. It had not occurred to him that this might require certain moving of furniture to adapt rooms to the purposes for which the Prime Minister wished to use them.

On Christmas Day the President and Mr. Churchill attended divine service at the Foundry Methodist Church, where the pastor in his petition paraphrased the Prime Minister’s famous remark, praying that he might continue to lead his own people even through blood, sweat, and tears, to a new world.

On December 22, the day of Churchill’s arrival, our President made the proclamation for a day of prayer on New Year’s Day. In this proclamation he said:
We are confident in our devotion to our country, in our love of freedom, in our inheritance of courage. But our strength, as the strength of all mean everywhere, is of greater avail as God upholds us.

The first day of the New Year was then formally set aside by the President “as a day of prayer, of asking forgiveness for our shortcomings of the past, of consecration to the tasks of the present, of asking God’s help in days to come.”

The President’s proclamation concluded with this paragraph:
We need His guidance that this people may be humble in spirit but strong in conviction of the right, steadfast to endure sacrifices and brave to achieve a victory of liberty and peace. On January 1, the Prime Minister again was the President’s guest. Together they worshipped in the pew used by George Washington in Old Christ Church, Alexandria, Va., and began the New Year with a prayer to which they had plighted themselves. Together they heard a young rector intone the prayer: “Be now and evermore our defense; grant us victory if it be they will.”

Later in the day they rode across the Washington estate at Mt. Vernon, overlooking the Potomac. It was raining. Standing beside the red-brick tomb, Mr. Churchill bared his head and placed a red, white, and blue wreath on the stones out of respect to the memory of our first president.

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