Message on the Observance of Christmas, 1987
Christmas, as the carol tells us, is ``the most wonderful time of the year.'' We see it in the excited eyes of a child -- an excitement easy to explain. What with the sights of brilliantly decorated trees, the sounds of familiar hymns and songs, and tastes of fresh-baked cookies and other treats, and above all the long-anticipated visit from St. Nick, Christmas for children is a time unlike any other.
That is true for grownups as well, of course; the joy and meaning of Christmas only deepen as we grow older. We still find pleasure in exchanging greetings and gifts, and we still delight in the warm and colorful images of the holiday. But we perceive ever more clearly, as did Scrooge, that the true beauty and wonder of the season lie in the Christmas spirit of giving of ourselves for others -- the message of the Prince of Peace whose birth we celebrate. At Christmastime we accompany shepherds and Wise Men to the stable as of old, where we relearn the timeless and priceless lessons of love, humility and sacrifice, where we see the Christmas spirit as God's love flowing through so many people all at once.
This spirit of love, as simple as a spoken greeting and as profound as a changed heart, seems so full that it ceaselessly looks for ways to express its power. We respond to it best when we share it with family, friend or stranger -- when we recognize that, under the sheltering evergreen branches of God's love, all are family and no one is a stranger. When we do these things, when we visit the lonely or help those in need, when a family is reconciled, Christmas is real and present, and that is truly what makes it ``the most wonderful time of the year.''
Nancy and I pray that peace and joy will reign in every home and every heart during this holy season. Merry Christmas, and may God's blessing be upon us all.