Remarks on Lighting the National Christmas Tree
December 12, 1985
My fellow Americans, thank you for joining Nancy and me on this festive evening. The menorah stands lighted in Lafayette Park, for this is also the time of Hanukkah, and this season is rich in the meaning of our Judeo-Christian tradition. In a moment we'll be lighting the National Christmas Tree, carrying forward what is now a 62-year tradition first begun by Calvin Coolidge.
Tonight we're drawn in warmth to one another as we reflect upon the deeply holy meaning of the miracle we shall soon celebrate. We know that Mary and Joseph reached the stable in Bethlehem sometime after sunset. 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. He promised there will never be a long night that does not end. He promised to deliver us from dark torment and tragedy into the warming sunlight of human happiness, and beyond that, into paradise. He's never been a halfway giver; His generosity is pure and perfect and sure.
This, then, expresses the true meaning of Christmas. 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? There's still time for joy and gladness to touch a sad and lonely soul, still time to feed a hungry child, to wrap a present for a kind old man feeling forlorn and afraid, and to reach out to an abandoned mother raising children on her own. There's still time to remember our Armed Forces, to express our profound gratitude to those keeping watch on faraway frontiers of freedom, and to redouble our energies to account for our MIA's. They are not and never will be forgotten. And there's still time to remember the deepest truth of all: that there can be no prisons, no walls, no boundaries separating the members of God's family.
Let us reach out tonight to every person who is persecuted; let us embrace and comfort, support and love them. Let us come together as one family under the fatherhood of God, binding ourselves in a communion of hearts, for tonight and tomorrow and for all time. May we give thanks for an America abundantly blessed, for a nation united, free, and at peace. May we carry forward the happiness of the Christmas spirit as the guiding star of our endeavors 365 days a year. And as we light this magnificent tree, may all the youthful hope and joy of America light up the heavens and make the angels sing.
Merry Christmas, and God bless you all. And now we're going to light the tree.
[At this point, the National Christmas Tree, which was located on the Ellipse, south of the White House grounds, was lighted.]
Note: The President spoke at 5:45 p.m. at the South Portico of the White House during the annual Christmas Pageant of Peace.