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During 1943, more than 6 million military men and women spent time deployed overseas. The United States was in the midst of its involvement in World War II, and that meant sacrifices had to be made. There were food shortages, and as factories and businesses were transformed for military use, meat, shortening, and butter (among other things) had to be rationed.

The world was changing. We were changing. But during the Christmas season, time stood still. That year, Bing Crosby released his version of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas (If Only In My Dreams)” and gave voice to what millions of military men and women who would not be home for Christmas and their families were feeling. The song became the most requested tune at U.S.O. shows and, according to Yank magazine, “accomplished more for military morale than any[thing] else of that era.”

Sitting around a miniature Christmas tree and opening a Christmas
package are (front row, left to right) S/Sgt. John F. Suchanek;
and Pfc. Joseph G. Pierro; and (back row) Sgt. Charles M. Myrich;
and Sgt. Leon L. Oben. All are members of F. A. Bn., 3rd Div.
Pietramelara, Italy. December 16, 1943. (Photo Courtesy of the U.S. Army)

As those men and women fought for everything that Christmas represents—peace on earth and good will toward men, new hope, and deliverance from hatred and suffering—they sacrificed all the pleasures, great and small, of the season. For them, there was no white Christmas, no mistletoe, no family gathered around the warm glow of a Christmas tree. But there was hope.

That is what this season means: hope. The Christmas story is a story of new beginnings spun from nothing. It isn’t, in a traditional way, the story of a prince born into a palace. It’s the story of “no room in the inn,” of a child laid in a manger and wrapped in swaddling clothes, of a man who never did any of the things associated with worldly wealth and power and yet changed the course of human history forever. It’s the story of the Prince of Peace and Lord of Lords, who chose to make a life of humility, as a carpenter and preacher, the greatest the world has ever known.

The hope we have in Christmas is the power each of us has to change the world—to improve the lives of others, and restore the brotherhood of man. Let’s resolve to use that power in the New Year.

My family and I want to send our warmest greetings and best wishes to all of you. As we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, and ring in the New Year, I invite you to join me in praying for wisdom and peace and in remembering those who won’t be spending Christmas at home.

I wish you a very Merry and Blessed Christmas, and a Happy New Year!


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