First Christmas speech of King Willem-Alexander of The Netherlands

First Christmas speech of King Willem-Alexander. In his first Christmas address King Willem-Alexander used his forum to speak about human relationships. He described Christmas as "a time for reflection on our existence." The King said Christmas reminds us of personal losses, referring to the loss of his brother Friso earlier this year, "for those who lost a loved one, the pain feels more intense during these days.
First Christmas speech of King Willem - Alexander
Christmas Speech by His Majesty the King, 25 December 2013

In the rush of daily life, so often focused on the here and now, Christmas provides a point of rest, a moment to reflect on our lives and on our relationships with others, both close by and far away.

Christmas is a festival of light, yet it is also the time we are most reminded of personal loss and sadness. For those who have lost a loved one, this is when grief becomes all the sharper.

The feeling of being part of a larger community of family and friends can provide solace and strength. The support they provide, often silent and behind the scenes, makes us thankful.

Princess Margriet and Professor Pieter van Vollenhoven have given that support to my mother for 33 years. In addition to their own duties, my aunt and uncle have tirelessly served the monarchy, in good times and bad. They have earned a special thank you.

Over the past year, great demands have been placed on the resolve and resilience of large sections of the Dutch population. Many people are concerned about their jobs and their income. They feel at the mercy of social forces beyond their control.

Those who lose their jobs or livelihoods, who cannot find employment or are no longer able to work, lose more than financial security alone. Our work is part of who we are. It helps to define our image of ourselves and of our place in society and the world. Having a job provides us with social contacts and gives us a sense of being appreciated. People share a need for recognition and understanding, not just at Christmas, but throughout the year.

Our relationships with others, especially those closest to us - relatives, friends and colleagues at work - play a crucial part in our lives. 'People are people through other people', as an African proverb goes. That is why many seek the company of loved ones at Christmas. But not everyone has that option.

Hundreds of thousands of Dutch people arenotat home today celebrating Christmas. Instead they are serving the public interest, in hospitals, utility companies, the transport sector, the police force or, further from home, at sea or in distant countries, working to promote peace and security. They all deserve our support.

Hundreds of thousands of people in the Netherlands will be alone at Christmas. For some, this is a conscious, positive choice. After all, 'alone' is not the same as 'lonely'. For many, however, their isolation is not self-imposed. It is due to their lack of family or loss of contacts. Thrown back on themselves, they often hanker for an outstretched hand or a listening ear.

However isolated people are, deep down the hope of contact and appreciation remains. This yearning is never extinguished.

Christmas is a time when we celebrate the promise of 'peace on earth, goodwill to all men'. But singing those words as an expression of personal belief may go hand in hand with a feeling of unease. The world is so big, problems so intractable and interests so opposed. And human suffering is often appalling. Communities are torn apart by natural disasters. We see images of people in improvised refugee camps, fleeing famine and terror. We hear words of hate being passed down from generation to generation, so that attempts at reconciliation seem doomed to failure.

All these events seem too vast for us to influence, and can make us feel powerless.

And yet …. 'peace on earth' is more than an unattainable ideal. More than a star in the heavens.

Peace on earth starts very nearby. At home. In your street, community or club. In your own village, town or city.

Everyone can foster that peace by seeking to connect with others, in his or her own way. That can take courage and a willingness to conquer one's inhibitions. Sometimes resistance has to be overcome. But overcoming resistance gives more satisfaction than just going aimlessly with the flow.

Last year, as in previous years, my wife and I had the privilege of meeting many people who actively seek to connect with others. Carers and volunteers. Foster parents who welcome children in need into their homes. Buddies who are there for people who are seriously ill. Innovative entrepreneurs who demonstrate a strong sense of corporate responsibility. Local residents who don't just wait for things to be done, but get together to find ways of improving their neighbourhood. Not forgetting doctors, emergency and aid workers, and soldiers who try to relieve the suffering of others in very concrete ways, far from home and under the most difficult circumstances.

They all seek to connect, from their personal conviction that a better future is possible.

And for many people that is the inspiring message of the Nativity story, passed down from generation to generation. The baby in the manger rekindles hope of a new beginning. The Christmas tidings convey a message of hope and light when all is dark. It is that there is a meaning to life, that there is a meaning to 'us'. It is a message that inspires people, whatever their beliefs or convictions.

By connecting, people can generate enough strength to move mountains. Something of that shared strength could be felt on 30 April this year. For many, including me, it was an unforgettable experience. That collective spirit bodes well for the year to come. There is a lot of rewarding work for us to do.

I wish you all - wherever you are and whatever your personal circumstances - a blessed Christmas.

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