Wednesday, December 22, 2010

In the Dark Streets Shineth by David McCullough

Christmas Eve, 1941:  Days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt met at the White House and delivered a powerful message that still resonates today. (adapted from book cover)

Mr. McCullough blends two themes into one brief, but poignant, moment in history.  The main story is the historic meeting of two world leaders to address a reeling, frightened country.  In that address, Mr. Churchill spoke of the war "creeping  nearer to our hearts and homes...[yet] we have tonight the peace of the spirit in each cottage home" and suggested that "for one night only, each home throughout the English-speaking world should be a brightly-lighted island of happiness and peace." 

The second, and perhaps more prevalant, theme of the book is the music that provided a backdrop for that moment.  On that Christmas morning, President Roosevelt and the Prime Minister attended church, where they sang "Oh Little Town of Bethlehem" - a hymn unfamiliar to Mr. Churchill.  The lyrics include these lines:

Yet in thy dark streets shineth, the everlasting light. 
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.
Though written more than 70 years earlier, this classic Christmas carol echoed Churchill's hope for the Everlasting Light amidst the darkness of war.  Two years later, another song bound to become a Christmas classic, was recorded by Bing Crosby:  "I'll Be Home For Christmas"

The book contains some background on both of these songs, as well as the complete text of both P.M. Churchill's and President Roosevelt's speeches.  Also included is a DVD of David McCullough's 2009 presentation of this story at the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra's annual Christmas concert.  While the spoken words are verbatim from the text, the incredible music brings them to life.

This is a very short book - thirty-three pages of scant text - but it also includes some nostalgic WWII-era pictures and, of course, the DVD, which makes it more worthy of the $19.99 retail price.   It's a great message of peace and hope for your holiday, and a brief history lesson.

1 comment:

  1. It sounds very wonderful and hopeful. Merry Christmas :)