The old year draws to a close. It began with dread of evil things to come and it ends with the horror of another war adding its toll of anguish to a world already bowed under the burden of suffering laid upon it by man's inhumanity to man.
But, thank God for the interlude of Christmas. This night is a night of joy and hope and happiness and promise of better things to come. And so in the happiness of this Eve of the most blessed day in the year I give to all of my countrymen the old, old greeting-"Merry Christmas- Happy Christmas."
A Christmas rite for me is always to re-read that immortal little story by Charles Dickens, "A Christmas Carol." Reading between the lines and thinking as I always do of Bob Cratchit's humble home as a counterpart of millions of our own American homes, the story takes on a stirring significance to me. Old Scrooge found that Christmas wasn't a humbug. He took to himself the spirit of neighborliness. But today neighborliness no longer can be confined to one's little neighborhood. Life has become too complex for that. In our country neighborliness has gradually spread its boundaries—from town, to county, to State and now at last to the whole Nation.
For instance, who a generation ago would have thought that a week from tomorrow-January 1, 1940—tens of thousands of 'elderly men and women in every State and every county and every city of the Nation would begin to receive checks every month for old age retirement insurance—and not only that but that there would be also insurance benefits for the wife, the widow, the orphan children and even dependent parents? Who would have thought a generation ago that people who lost their jobs would, for an appreciable period, receive unemployment insurance—that the needy, the blind and the crippled children would receive some measure of protection which will reach down to the millions of Bob Cratchit's, the Marthas and the Tiny Tims of our own "four-room homes."
In these days of strife and sadness in many other lands, let us in the nations which still live at peace forbear to give thanks only for our good fortune in our peace.
Let us rather pray that we may be given strength to live for others-to live more closely to the words of the Sermon on the Mount and to pray that peoples in the nations which are at war may also read, learn and inwardly digest these deathless words.
May their import reach into the hearts of all men and of all nations.
I offer them as my Christmas message:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
"Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
"Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
"Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
"Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
"Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
"Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
"Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."