WASHINGTON - "At Christmas, we give thanks for the gift of the birth of Christ, and for the blessings that surround us every day of the year. In this great and prosperous land, we have so much to be thankful for, and Christmas reminds us of our obligation to share these blessings with others," said President Bush in a Christmas Eve radio address.
Before leaving for the holiday weekend, Bush taped the Christmas message at the White House on Thursday, calling the American citizens to remember those who need a helping hand, including the victims whose lives have been devastatingly impacted by disasters this year.
"This Christmas, we remember our fellow citizens who suffered from the hurricanes and other disasters that struck our nation this past year," he said. "We pray for their strength as they continue to recover and rebuild their lives and their communities."
Church groups and relief agencies continue to pour aid funds and volunteer assistance to the Gulf Coast areas where the homes of congregations and families remain waterlogged. Lutheran Disaster Response recently received a $6 million grant from Katrina Aid Today, a national consortium of social service and volunteer organizations administered by the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). Through a $66 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Katrina Aid Today has allocated funds to ten organizations to help survivors recover from the hurricane.
"There are many among us who are hurting and require a helping hand," said Bush in his address. "In the new year, I hope Americans will look for ways to volunteer your time and talents where they are needed most. By reaching out to a neighbor in need, we make our nation a more just and compassionate place."
As American troops remain in Iraq through the holidays, Bush also recognized the armed forces protecting the nation and the families enduring the heavy burden especially during the Christmas season.
"During the holiday season and throughout the year, we think with pride of the men and women of our Armed Forces, who are keeping our nation safe and defending freedom around the world," he said. "Staying behind when a family member goes to war is a heavy burden and it's particularly hard at Christmas. We pray for our military families; we ask Almighty God to bestow His protection and care on their loved ones as they protect our nation from grave dangers."
On Christmas Eve, Bush had planned to attend a candlelight service at the Camp David chapel with military families, according to The Associated Press, and watch the annual Christmas pageant put on by children of U.S. troops.
"The times we live in have brought many challenges to our country. And at such times, the story of Christmas brings special comfort and confidence," Bush said. "Christmas reminds us that we can trust in God's promise of peace on Earth and goodwill toward men. On a night more than 2,000 years ago, an angel of the Lord brought good tidings of great joy: the God of Heaven had come to Earth, and He would be with us always.