King’s Christmas speech breaks record

POSTED: 12/27/13 3:24 PM

THE HAGUE – Around 2.3 million viewers tuned in to the first Christmas speech by King Willem-Alexander on Wednesday. When the broadcast of the recorded speech began at 1 p.m., 1.7 million viewers were glued to their TV-set. More than 600,000 other watch a rerun at the end of the afternoon. According to a ratings expert, the numbers make the king’s Christmas speech the best watched ever. It was also the program that attractef the most viewers on Christmas Day.

King Willem-Alexander reached out to people that have lost loved ones – an experience the royal family shares due to the death of the king’s brother Johan Friso. This is the translated text of the speech:

“In the flurry of daily life, often focused on the here and now, Christmas is a period of rest; a moment for reflection on our existence and our relationship with others, close at hand and far away.

Especially at Christmas, the celebration of the light, we are reminded of personal loss and sorrow. Those who have lost a loved one, feel the pain even more during these days.

The awareness to be part of a larger constellation of family and friends can provide comfort and strength. Their support, often in silence and in the background, is something to be grateful for.

This way Princess Margriet and Mr. Pieter van Vollenhoven supported my mother during 33 years. My uncle and aunt have used their own activities with gusto in the service of her reign, in light and dark periods. They deserve a special word of thanks.

In the year that is behind us, a strong call has been made on the resilience and the perseverance of large groups of Dutch citizens. Many people are concerned about their job and their income. They feel dependent on social powers over which they have no control.

Those who lose their job or company, those who are unable to find a job or are unable to work any longer, lose more than financial security alone. Our work also is a part of who we are. It determines the image people have of themselves and of their place in the society and the world. Having a job influences social contacts and the feeling of being appreciated. The need for recognition and understanding binds people, not only during Christmas, but all through the year.

Our relationships with others are essential in our life; especially the people that are close to us – the members of the family, friends and colleagues at work. People are people because of other people, goes an African saying. From that perception, many seek out the company of their loved ones during Christmas. But not everybody has that possibility.

Hundreds of thousands of Dutch citizens are not at home today to participate in the celebration, they are serving the public cause, in hospitals and institutions, at utility companies, in transportation, at the police, or further away, at sea or in faraway countries, working for peace and security. They all deserve our support.

Hundreds of thousands of Dutch citizens spend Christmas alone. That can very well be a positive, individual choice. Alone is not the same as lonely, but for many the seclusion is not voluntarily, because either they no longer have direct family members, or because those contacts have faded away, They are on their own and are often waiting for a hand that reaches out to them, or an ear willing to listen.

No matter how much these people can live in isolation, deep down the hope of recognition and contact stays alive,. That hope never dies.

Christmas is the celebration of the expectation of peace on earth, in the people a wellbeing.

Singing those lines as an expression of personal faith could trigger at the same time a feeling of unease. The world is so large, and the problems are so widespread.

Interests are so diametrically opposed. And the misery that hits people is often horrifying. We see images of people in improvised refugee camps, on the run for hunger and terror. We hear words of hatred that are passed on from generation to generation that seem to offer no chance to conciliatory positions.

The large picture seems to evade our influence and that can trigger a feeling of powerlessness. But still:

Still peace on earth is more than an unachievable ideal. It is more than a star in the sky.

Peace on earth begins real close to us – at home, in the street, in the neighborhood, or at the club; in your own village or town.

Everybody is able to contribute to peace in her or his own way, by looking for links. Sometimes that requires a bit of courage and  a victory over one self. Sometimes it is necessary to overcome resistant. But overcoming resistance is more satisfying that aimlessly and without a struggle going with the flow.

The past year, but also in the years before that, my wife and I have had the privilege to meet a lot of people that are indeed looking for the links with others. Voluntary aids, guest parents that open their homes for children in trouble, buddies who care for people with a serious disease, innovative entrepreneurs who feel a strong special responsibility and act upon it, neighborhood residents who are not playing the waiting game, but who are searching for solutions to improve their living environment. And also: doctors, aid workers, development workers and soldiers far from home, under the most difficult conditions, who make concrete attempts to soften the suffering of others one way or another.

They are all looking for the link, from their personal conviction that a better future is possible.

There lies for many people the inaspiration of the Christmas story, that is told from one generation to the next one. With the Child in the crib, the hope for a new beginning revives. The tiding of Christmas is a message of hope and light in the darkest of days – life matters, we all together matter. Independent of faith or live convictions people feel  connected to that message.

By establishing links people are able to develop a power that is able to move mountains, something of that joint power became palpable on April 309 of this year. For many, and also for me, that was an unforgettable experience. In that spirit, we should look with confidence at the year that lies ahead of us. There is a lot of beautiful work to be done.

I wish you all, wherever you are and whatever your personal circumstances may be, a blessed Christmas.”

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