Heaven and earth touch each other at Christmas. Christ, the Son of God is born in a simple stable. His mother puts him to sleep in a crib. Angels proclaim a message of peace and hope for a better world.
Celebrating Christmas can be confronting and make us think. Near the spot where stood the manger, now reigns fear and violence. Unimaginable are the hardships that ordinary people - many of them small children - in Syria, as well as those suffering in other countries. Violence can also be close to home. Terrorist attacks this year - like last week in Berlin - leave many families in mourning.
Christmas 2016 also evokes contradictory feelings. That is why I have struggled with this Christmas Speech.
We would thus like to see the angel of peace spreads his wings over the world. We would know that would relive us so much. But while there is much that makes us worried and gives us a sense of threat and helplessness. Contradictions in the world appear to be larger. And that has an impact on our lives here. Extreme seems to be the new normal. Searching for security removes groups of their own rights. That often makes an open conversation impossible. Many fell we live in a country without listeners.
Who doubts about the future, often idealizes the past. And gives to all of us nostalgia for the past. Yes, once ...
We know that the reality was less rosy. And that many issues on which we are now so worried, on closer inspection, are less serious than we sometimes think.
This is very much to be happy about and life in many ways is really better than then.
"Perception is reality," you often hear. But the foundation of everyday life is like quicksand our perceptions displace reality. Let us honestly name the difficult problems. If there is one country that knows solidarity, it is the Netherlands. Without seeking the limelight, millions of carers and volunteers are our quiet strength. But do we recognize you and your loving work enough?
The message of Christmas is a message of hope, peace and charity.
This is a call to each of us. How we behave toward one another? What we do ourselves for our society in such a way that everyone knows and can feel safe at home? Can we still, solve problems together peacefully?
In these uncertain times, it is necessary to keep solid ground underfoot. The values that traditionally belong to the Netherlands, also determine in the future our ability to come together. While the world seems to give us less grip, we must stick to what we share and protect what connects us.
We want to live here, as free and equal people. Without afraiding of threats or intimidation and without discrimination on grounds of belief, race, gender or sexual orientation. These rights apply here for everyone, always.
Freedom needs space. Room to live, to move, to think and debate without fear. Space to be different from each other. That freedom belongs to us and is stronger than any act of terrorism as well.
Earlier this year I opened the Rotterdam Library, an exhibition dedicated to the famous Dutchman Desiderius Erasmus. He lived 500 years ago, not long after the invention of the printing press, the Internet of the 16th century. Erasmus was one of the first who took advantage of it. Throughout Europe readers knew his work.
Erasmus was a deeply religious man with a critical mind and a sharp pen. A man dared to overthrow sacred customs. Nothing human was alien to him and he was tremendously upset about the abuses of his time. But he always continued to search his strength in reasonable arguments and the peaceful exchange of ideas. We need each other after all.
"De natuur heeft onze gaven zo verdeeld, dat de ene mens het niet kan stellen zonder de hulp van de ande./Nature has divided our gifts so that one man can not do without the help of others," he wrote.
Terrorists are trying to undermine our free way of living and to undermine our sense of home. Rightly people desire in the first place safety.
In this time of uncertainty, fear and anger are understandable emotions. But anger can not be terminal. The peace we so desire does not come closer as people give up. Peace begins with protecting what we share and using positive forces. Without you, without him, it can not.
At Christmas we are urged not to give up. Not to give up on one another. Every person counts. Christmas light shines for all of us, and it makes us see each other.
The old Christmas carol puts it nicely:
[Willem-Alexander is referring to the Dutch Lyrics of the song "Hark the Herald Angels Sing"]
Tussen alle mensen in
In het menselijk gezin
Hoor, de engelen zingen de eer
Van de nieuw geboren Heer.
Among all the people in
In the human family
Hark, the herald angels sing glory
Of the newborn King.
[The lyrics from the English version of the song are:]
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"
I wish all of you - wherever you are and whatever your personal circumstances may be - a blessed Christmas.
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