On CHRISTMAS EVE, DECEMBER 24, 1492, Columbus’ ship, the Santa Maria, ran aground on the island of Hispanola (Haiti). Columbus left 40 men and named the settlement la Navidad, promising to return the next year.
On CHRISTMAS EVE, DECEMBER 24, 1777, Captain James Cook discovered Christmas Island, the largest atoll in the Pacific, where he observed eclipse of the sun.
On CHRISTMAS EVE, DECEMBER 24, 1814, the Treaty of Ghent was signed in Belgium, officially ending the War of 1812. Word did not reach America in time to prevent a British attack on New Orleans, which Andrew Jackson won January 8, 1815.
On CHRISTMAS EVE, DECEMBER 24, 1968, Apollo 8, the first manned mission to the Moon, entered lunar orbit. Astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and William Anders sent a live television broadcast from 250,000 miles away, reading from the Book of Genesis and giving a Christmas Greeting:
“We are now approaching Lunar sunrise.
And for all the people back on Earth, the crew of Apollo 8 has a message that we would like to send to you.
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good…
And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters…
And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.
And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.”
Frank Borman ended by saying:
“And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you – all of you on the good Earth.”
President Richard Nixon stated January 20, 1969:
“As the Apollo astronauts flew over the moon’s gray surface on CHRISTMAS EVE, they spoke to us the beauty of earth – and in that voice so clear across the lunar distance, we heard them invoke God’s blessing on its goodness.”
On CHRISTMAS EVE, DECEMBER 24, 1946, President Harry S Truman lit the National Christmas Tree, saying:
“Our…hopes of future years turn to a little town in the hills of Judea where on a winter’s night two thousand years ago the prophecy of Isaiah was fulfilled.
Shepherds keeping the watch by night over their flock heard the glad tidings of great joy from the angels of the Lord singing, ‘Glory to God in the Highest and on Earth, peace, good will toward men.’
The message of Bethlehem best sums up our hopes tonight.
If we as a nation, and the other nations of the world, will accept it, the star of faith will guide us into the place of peace as it did the shepherds on that day of Christ’s birth long ago.”
The next year, on CHRISTMAS EVE, DECEMBER 24, 1947, President Truman lit the National Community Christmas Tree, stating:
“Down the ages from the first Christmas through all the years of nineteen centuries, mankind in its weary pilgrimage through a changing world has been…strengthened by the message of Christmas.
The angels sang for joy at the first Christmas in faraway Bethlehem.
Their song has echoed through the corridors of time and will continue to sustain the heart of man through eternity…
A humble man and woman had gone up from Galilee out of the City of Nazareth to Bethlehem…
St. Luke’s brief chronicle that Mary ‘brought forth her firstborn son, wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.'”
On CHRISTMAS EVE, DECEMBER 24, 1948, President Truman lit the National Community Christmas Tree and stated:
“The moving event of the first Christmas was the bringing forth of the first born in the stable in Bethlehem.
There began in humble surroundings the home life of the Holy Family glorified in song…down through the centuries…
With one accord we receive with joy…the message of the first Christmas… What could be more appropriate than for all of us to dedicate ourselves to the cause of peace on this Holy Night…”
“The religion which came to the world heralded by the song of the Angels has endured for nineteen centuries… It remains today the world’s best hope for peace if the world will accept its fundamental teaching that all men are brothers.
‘God that made the world and all things therein…hath made of one blood all nations of man for to dwell on all the face of the earth.’
In the spirit of that message from the Acts of the Apostles, I wish all of you a Merry Christmas.”
On CHRISTMAS EVE, DECEMBER 24, 1949, President Harry S Truman lit the National Christmas Tree, stating:
“The first Christmas had its beginning in the coming of a Little Child… Through that child love…the love of the Holy Family could be shared by the whole human family…
I have been reading again in our family Bible some of the passages which foretold this night. It was that grand old seer Isaiah who prophesied in the Old Testament the sublime event which found fulfillment almost 2,000 years ago.
Just as Isaiah foresaw the coming of Christ, so another battler for the Lord, St. Paul, summed up the law and the prophets in a glorification of love which he exalts even above both faith and hope.
We miss the spirit of Christmas if we consider the Incarnation…a far-off event unrelated to our present problems.
We miss the purpose of Christ’s birth if we do not accept it as a living link which joins us together in spirit as children of the ever-living and true God.
In love alone – the love of God and the love of man – will be found the solution of all the ills which afflict the world today… With increasing purpose, emerges the great message of Christianity…
In the spirit of the Christ Child – as little children with joy in our hearts and peace in our souls – let us, as a nation, dedicate ourselves anew to the love of our fellowmen…the message of the Child of Bethlehem, the real meaning of Christmas.”
On CHRISTMAS EVE, DECEMBER 24, 1952, President Harry S Truman lit the National Community Christmas Tree, stating:
“As we light this National Christmas tree tonight, here on the White House lawn – as all of us light our own Christmas trees in our own homes – we remember another night long ago.
Then a Child was born in a stable. A star hovered over, drawing wise men from afar. Shepherds, in a field, heard angels singing… That was the first Christmas and it was God’s great gift to us…
Year after year it brings peace and tranquility to troubled hearts in a troubled world.
And tonight the earth seems hushed, as we turn to the old, old story of how
‘God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’
Let us remember always to try to act and live in the spirit of the Prince of Peace. He bore in His heart no hate and no malice-nothing but love for all mankind. We should try as nearly as we can to follow His example…
We believe that all men are truly the children of God. As we worship at this Christmastide, let us worship in this spirit…
Through Jesus Christ the world will yet be a better and a fairer place…
I wish for all of you a Christmas filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit, and many years of future happiness with the peace of God reigning upon this earth.”
On CHRISTMAS EVE, DECEMBER 24, 1983, in a Radio Address to the Nation, President Ronald Reagan stated:
“Some celebrate Christmas as the birthday of a great teacher and philosopher.
But to other millions of us, Jesus is much more. He is divine, living assurance that God so loved the world He gave us His only begotten Son so that by believing in Him and learning to love each other we could one day be together in paradise.”
The Moral Liberal Contributing Editor, William J. Federer, is the bestselling author of “Backfired: A Nation Born for Religious Tolerance no Longer Tolerates Religion,” and numerous other books. A frequent radio and television guest, his daily American Minute is broadcast nationally via radio, television, and Internet. Check out all of Bill’s bookshere.
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