A week ends, what a week. A momentous schism in our history fraught with import and yet it is churned in a news cycle that can’t seem to find the time to pause for reflection. Political calculations swirl, from on-screen pundits and another Democratic debate. The women and men on stage are fewer, but also less diverse. Is this progress? Is one of them a winner? Does the arc of the moral universe still bend towards justice?

A year wraps up, but it still seems out of focus. We hurtle forward into the unknown, from the unknown. A new decade beckons but it is an anxious entreaty. The holiday season is upon us. Year’s best lists start emerging. It seems familiar, but the backdrop is not. Friends and family travel and gather. There are cold wars between warring factions who share the same last name.

Walking amidst the jostle of busy shopping streets, with overcoat wrapped tight against the cold, I can feel the nervousness beneath the mirth. My mind goes back to a far different time. Christmas during World War II. Similar carols against greater unease and tragedy.

I do not wish to minimize the moment in which we find ourselves, but it is hard to translate to those of you who didn’t live it (and these days that’s the vast, vast majority of you) what Christmas was like during that world war, especially in the beginning. The newspapers were of an onward march by the Axis powers. There was no certainty that the allies would win. I remember before the battle of Midway and after, that great turning of fortune. I think about that often now.

We are at a time where the peril must not be minimized. The looming election will define what kind of nation we will have. The capitulation of the Republican party to lies and debasement of morality and values is a grave threat to the tenets by which America was founded. But the answer, as it was during World War II, is that we must rally to the fight for justice.

We must recognize that victories, dramatic, earth-shattering victories, are possible. We can see that this country has come great distances in so many ways. It was the work of women and men of courage, conviction, and endurance. Throughout my life, I have met many such people, and have been inspired. I think of them, and all of you, and I am inspired anew. Embrace the holidays, breathe deep. Reach out to those who are lonely, sick, and in need. Tap into the best of our values and gird yourself, with optimism, for whatever lies ahead.