DECEMBER 25, 1957
HYDE PARK—The Christmas season always seems to me to be an extremely happy one, particularly if it is possible for members of families and friends to be together. I have always been very fortunate in this way, and I cannot think of anything pleasanter than watching the enjoyment of children as they gather around the Christmas tree to open their gifts.
Many people feel that Christmas has become too commercialized and that too much time is given to the buying of gifts, not enough to the spiritual significance of the season.
This may be true because we certainly have telescoped in this country the various Christmas traditions of countries in other parts of the world so that Santa Claus and the birth of the Christ Child have come to be almost identical in the minds of children.
Yet I find very few who do not have a clear concept of the birth of the Babe in the manger and what His coming meant to the lives of individuals all over the world.
The Christian religion has had a humanizing effect on many others, I think, and there is certainly no other religion that affects the way you live more strongly than does this one.
Santa Claus, with his gifts, is with us only for a day. He may be somewhat commercial. He may make you feel that so many things to buy are a bother. In that case, you can put him away from you and decide that you will make this day, as nearly as possible, like any other day in the year to avoid the inconvenience of crowded shops and streets and roads and trains and boats and airplanes.
But you will miss a good deal, I think, in not sensing the atmosphere which comes from those who really do enjoy the Christmas spirit, who find the crowds fun and the inconveniences of mixing with multitudes of happy people not too great to bear.
The spiritual side of Christmas you can never put away, however. It is with you every day of your life. For the life of the Child who was born in a manger is the challenge to every individual, meeting him as he awakens in the morning and as he thinks over his day at night. There is no running away from the challenge of the spiritual side of Christmas.
If we accept it and measure our own personal lives as well as our collective lives by this constant yardstick, I think we will find great changes are necessary. The public policies of nations reflect the individual character of their people and the thinking and the living of each one of us as individuals.
This thought, I hope, will come to every individual in this nation as he listens to the Christmas carols and the story of the Christ Child's coming.