Many Americans awakened this morning to the same anxieties that have become an all too familiar part of the last few Christmases. War, joblessness and a struggling economy have sapped the holiday spirit, and for yet another year the best gift under the tree might be the hope that America is turning a corner. But there also is a durability to Christmas that puts any test in perspective. The season is still a call to peace, goodwill and the warmth of tradition with friends and family.
There is no sugarcoating how much Americans have endured. Military families have sacrificed enormously, and for some, Christmas offers precious time to be together. Those looking for jobs will face hardship even after they find work. Americans are seeing their family incomes drop, their homes lose value and their retirements evaporate. And they are apprehensive about what the new year will bring. Yet on this morning, there are many reasons to give thanks and rekindle the hopeful Christmas spirit.
While the nation's fabric has truly been stretched, Americans should not lose sight of what the country has accomplished even in these difficult times. This year marks a step closer to the day when America's servicemen and women come home for good. The nation has sustained at least the essentials of a public safety net, and it has moved to provide for the needs of the uninsured and the dignity of its gay citizens. The nation also continues to dig deep for the less fortunate both at home and overseas.
One of the sweeter aspects of Christmas is the privilege to indulge in nostalgia, to drift back to the memories of long ago and the comforting sights, sounds and traditions of the holidays. And Americans need only look at the decorations on their trees to realize how important history and family are to today's celebration. America may be in a state of flux, but the nation has always been evolving. Christmas has remained a time for momentary peace, when even secular traditions can take on a religious fervor.
Americans can welcome the holiday the same way they have embraced Christmas for centuries, confident in their experience and hopeful for the future.