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The King’s (Christmas) Speech

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On September 3, 1939, King George VI gave the most important speech of his life.  A few months later, with Britain battered by the loss of great warships, and many of its Asian holdings, he also gave the Christmas message of December 25, 1939.  The Christmas message tradition had been started by his father, George V in 1932, but it was WWII that embedded it as an annual tradition in British hearts and minds.  (The band Genesis noted “we always watch the Queen on Christmas Day” in their song “Blood on the Rooftops.”)

George VI’s famous stuttering problem, mitigated with help from Lionel Logue, was the focus of last year’s Oscar-winning film The King’s Speech.  In the 1939 Christmas message, it was only evident at one point in the short address.  However, one can certainly hear the measured cadence George VI used to overcome the problem.

George’s wife Elizabeth, mother to today’s Queen Elizabeth II, brought him a poem that had deeply touched her.  George VI excerpted the first lines of the poem, “God Knows” (aka “The Gate of the Year”) by Minnie Louise Haskins to illuminate the spiritual comfort he believed his subjects might seek as the Axis powers confronted the Allies in the early days of World War II.

God Knows

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night. And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.

So heart bestill:
What need our little life
Our human life to know,
If God hath comprehension?
In all the dizzy strife
Of things both high and low,
God hideth His intention.

God knows. His will
Is best. The stretch of years
Which wind ahead, so dim
To our imperfect vision,
Are clear to God. Our fears
Are premature; In Him,
All time hath full provision.

Then rest: until
God moves to lift the veil
From our impatient eyes,
When, as the sweeter features
Of Life’s stern face we hail,
Fair beyond all surmise
God’s thought around His creatures
Our mind shall fill

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