Lacy was sitting on the floor at the bookstore going through different history volumes that I might be interested in. She looked at the bottom shelf and found a small 50 page book pushed back in the corner that most people would have missed. It was a book by historian David McCullough entitled "In The Dark Streets Shineth." It was about Winston Churchill who arrived secretly in this country a few weeks after Pearl Harbor. He stayed with the President, Franklin D. Roosevelt, over the days of Christmas.
It was a perfect Christmas celebration with snow on the ground and plenty of cold weather that kept the fireplaces of the country burning. Of course, everyone was thinking of the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor and the fact this nation was now at war with the enemy, both with Japan and Germany.
This small picture book showed what it was really like in the good old days. Most Americans had musical instruments at home, the piano and other instruments that someone could play around the fireplace. I can remember as a small boy my aunts playing Christmas hymns on the piano and the accordion. Everyone sang along, and no one had to ask, "What's this season all about?" Toys were few and far between even though we were not on poverty row. You just didn't give a mountain of junk to the kids. Fruit and candy were the mainstay of the celebration.
The book shows Churchill going to church with the Roosevelts on Christmas Eve. Candles were lit and the Christmas tree was lit on the White House lawn. Churchill was deeply moved, and so was the Roosevelt family, the grand kids and the entire bunch! Churchill's arrival was at first kept secret but then it was revealed that he was here. Both he and the President spoke on the radio honoring the birth of Christ before the entire nation.
The picture book shows Grand Central Station decorated with Christmas wreaths and candles. The American homes were shown with the children preparing for Christmas, all having fun but also getting ready to sing around the piano. The turkey was in the oven, and though the war had begun, still Christmas was celebrated because the country was not going to forget the birth of Christ.
McCullough wrote that for Christmas 1941, carols were the "soul of the story" for remembering the coming of Jesus. "It was impossible to imagine life in America without "Shenandoah," "Amazing Grace," "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" or "Silent Night" and "Home for Christmas." Such songs are quickly vanishing from our nation's treasure chest.
Churchill crossed the Atlantic in secret at some personal risk as the war had just begun. On Christmas Eve both he and the President stood on the White House balcony before a gathered crowd of 20,000. The Washington Monument was in the background just behind the Virginia Hills. Roosevelt said to the people "Our strongest weapon during this war is what Christmas Day is all about." The world was listening to his words by radio.
He added, "As the war creeps closer to our homes and hearts tonight we have peace in each cottage home and in every generous heart."
A Program was printed up for the Christmas Eve celebration. The songs being sung were "Break Forth O Heavenly Light," and "The Heavens are Telling," and too "The Heavens Praise Thee, Eternal King." Also, "Christmas Memories," "The Hallelujah Chorus," "Joy to the World" and many other old favorites. All of the songs were played by the U.S. Marine Band.
Many Generals were seen with the President. No one backed down in order to be politically correct. Churchill was touched by "O Little Town of Bethlehem" which he had never heard before. He was especially moved by the line that read: "Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light."
Churchill was nearly moved to tears when he heard the people sing what was almost a British anthem as that nation struggled through the conflict with Germany, "The White Cliffs of Dover."
All of the music that was sung before Churchill and Roosevelt was part of a historic affirmation as to the Christian (and Christmas) heritage of these two blessed nations. The President then gave his 1941 Christmas Eve message to the nation over radio. He said:
"How can we put aside this evil world, even for a day, this Christmas Day, and rejoice in peace over the birth of Christ? Here the world is resisting the truth in propagating so much evil. As this war begins I have set aside a Day of Prayer and a Proclamation for our people. Our free institutions are being dominated by arrogant rulers who have selfish purposes to destroy our beloved way of life. The new year, 1942, calls for our courage and resolution of old and young to help to win a world struggle in order that we may preserve all that we hold dear.
"Our strength, as the strength of all men everywhere, is of greater avail as God upholds us.
"Therefore, I hereby appoint the first day of the year, 1942, as a day of prayer, of asking forgiveness for our shortcomings of the past, of consecration to the task of the present, of asking God's help in days to come.
"We need His guidance that this people may be humble in spirit but strong in the conviction of the right, … to achieve a victory of liberty and peace. … We set our faith in … God's care for us and all everywhere. "
Churchill then spoke briefly and closed with "Here, then, for one night only, each home throughout the English-speaking world should be a brightly-lighted island of … peace. In God's mercy, a happy Christmas to you all."
Both leaders knew that the world was at that time being blessed of God by what He was doing with the English-speaking world. The Anglo-Saxon civilization was used of Him to change the nations of earth. This is historic fact and should not be set aside or denied.
But now, the English-speaking nations are shelving their heritage and denying the blessings of All-Mighty God. We will pay a high price in walking away from the mercy He has shown our people. We have denied His grace!
Pray for the peace of our planet, and thank Him for sending His Son to bring deliverance and salvation through Jesus Christ! --Dr. Mal Couch (12/10)