On Christmas Eve 1941, in Washington on a diplomatic mission to organize the support of Britain's American allies in the efforts to stop the Nazi menace, Winston Churchill was offered the opportunity to address the American people from the south portico of the White House. America as a nation had been attacked like never before just weeks earlier; the horrors of Pearl Harbor were on the minds of every patriot.

It was rumored the annual Christmas Tree lighting would be canceled. Instead, 20,000 people came to see it, seeking some light in a very dark world.

Just...

On Christmas Eve 1941, in Washington on a diplomatic mission to organize the support of Britain’s American allies in the efforts to stop the Nazi menace, Winston Churchill was offered the opportunity to address the American people from the south portico of the White House. America as a nation had been attacked like never before just weeks earlier; the horrors of Pearl Harbor were on the minds of every patriot.

It was rumored the annual Christmas Tree lighting would be canceled. Instead, 20,000 people came to see it, seeking some light in a very dark world.

Just two days later, Churchill would deliver a historic political address in the US Senate chambers to a packed audience. It was intended to rouse the nation in its new commitment to join the fight and defeat the Axis powers — and was a not too subtle rebuttal to the “America First” forces that had argued that the United States should remain neutral and stay out of the war. Any remaining question about the course the US would take in the years to come was cast aside by the end of Churchill’s remarks, when, as the Washington Post described:

The effect was instantaneous, electric. The cheers swelled into a roar. Usually restrained Harlan Fiske Stone, chief justice of the United States, raised his arm in a return salute… and fingers spread in the victory sign were raised in scores of places throughout the chamber.

Despite those expressions of resolve, these were undoubtedly the darkest days western democracy had ever faced. The possibility of defeat by the Axis powers, or a resolution that allowed the dominance of the Third Reich over Europe, was very real. How does one set such dire concerns aside to celebrate Christmas?

Churchill told us how, in words that contain a message which is just as meaningful today for all with family far from home, for those pitted against America’s enemies half a world away, or facing the chaotic challenges here which are enough to make you give up hope.

His message rang true then, and it rings true now. And so, more than eighty years since he said it, I share it with you, and wish you all a Merry Christmas:

I spend this anniversary and festival far from my country, far from my family, yet I cannot truthfully say that I feel far from home. Whether it be the ties of blood on my mother’s side, or the friendships I have developed here over many years of active life, or the commanding sentiment of comradeship in the common cause of great peoples who speak the same language, who kneel at the same altars and, to a very large extent, pursue the same ideals, I cannot feel myself a stranger here in the center and at the summit of the United States. I feel a sense of unity and fraternal association which, added to the kindliness of your welcome, convinces me that I have a right to sit at your fireside and share your Christmas joys.

This is a strange Christmas Eve. Almost the whole world is locked in deadly struggle, and, with the most terrible weapons which science can devise, the nations advance upon each other. Ill would it be for us this Christmastide if we were not sure that no greed for the land or wealth of any other people, no vulgar ambition, no morbid lust for material gain at the expense of others, had led us to the field.

Here, in the midst of war, raging and roaring over all the lands and seas, creeping nearer to our hearts and homes, here, amid all the tumult, we have tonight the peace of the spirit in each cottage home and in every generous heart.

Therefore we may cast aside for this night at least the cares and dangers which beset us, and make for the children an evening of happiness in a world of storm. Here, then, for one night only, each home throughout the English-speaking world should be a brightly-lighted island of happiness and peace.

Let the children have their night of fun and laughter. Let the gifts of Father Christmas delight their play. Let us grown-ups share to the full in their unstinted pleasures before we turn again to the stern task and the formidable years that lie before us, resolved that, by our sacrifice and daring, these same children shall not be robbed of their inheritance or denied their right to live in a free and decent world.

And so, in God’s mercy, a happy Christmas to you all.