By the end of 1962, President Kennedy understood in the marrow of his bones how blessed, how lucky, was the world. A few months prior, he and his closest advisors—primarily his brother Bobby—had de-escalated the Cuban Missile Crisis, an event that very nearly brought the United States and the Soviet Union to nuclear Armageddon. Against tremendous forces in his own government that were advocating for war, Kennedy had let reason prevail. Seeing the absurdity of mutually assured destruction, the Kennedys used their wits, their grasp of history, their diplomatic and rhetorical skills, and the vocabulary of their Christian moral foundation to defuse the madness that was leading everyone into the abyss.
President Kennedy’s 1962 Christmas message takes another step forward, a step to a higher level of thinking. Not only are we as Americans blessed in light of the crisis averted, he is saying, we are also called to be a blessing and to give blessing to all, including our enemies. In June of 1963, he gave a major speech at the American University in which he laid out a new vision for peace, calling for the curbing of nuclear weapons, acknowledging how much the Russian people had suffered during World War II and inviting his fellow Americans to reexamine our attitude toward our Cold War enemy. It was an evolution from “God bless America” to “God bless all nations, even the ones we don’t like!” As Christmas approaches, let’s ask ourselves how we as individuals, as a nation, as a world measure up to the ideals and role modeling Kennedy was offering on the question of war and peace.
Prayer: Jesus, in this time of Advent, instill in us a deep, heartfelt desire for peace, and give us the courage and resolve to make peace on earth our reality.