KENSINGTON, Md. Elder Ralph Hardy, an Area Authority Seventy; and Belgium's ambassador to the U.S., Frans van Daele; were the featured speakers at the Washington D.C. Temple's Festival of Lights which began Dec. 1.
Each year, the opening night ceremonies are attended by many members of the diplomatic community as well as members of the U.S. Congress and other dignitaries.
Elder Hardy and Ambassador van Daele together flipped the switch igniting more than 450,000 Christmas lights on the temple grounds.
After noting that the Christmas lights are backdropped by the bright white, floodlit Washington D.C. Temple, Elder Hardy spoke about the symbolic significance of light at Christmastime.
"In addition to the unforgettable carols and stirring anthems of this season, perhaps one of the most enduring symbols of Christmas is that of light," he said.
He suggested three reasons why light is a part of the Christmas celebration.
First, he said, "The Christmas lights remind us of the great signs, wonders and lights in the heavens that announced the Lord's birth."
Second, he continued, "The Christmas lights remind us that Jesus is 'the Light of the world.' "
Third, he said, "The Christmas lights remind us that the 'light of Christ' fills all creation even the immensity of space."
Recalling the biblical account of angels declaring the Savior's birth to the shepherds in their fields, Elder Hardy said, "As with the declaration of this heavenly host, I believe that these Christmas lights also radiate the great hope of this season: that as we absorb their wondrous luminescence just as we draw warmth and comfort from an open fire each of us can acquire, through our faith in God, a greater light within ourselves with which to confront the challenges and dark corners of our days.
"In this nation, moreover, and throughout the lands of the world many of which are represented by the distinguished diplomats with us this evening may these beautiful Christmas lights also signify our abiding hope of 'Peace on earth, good will toward men.' "
In his remarks, Ambassador van Daele talked of his country's involvement in the two world wars and the peace built upon those ruins of war. He said that if problems are solved through compromise and negotiation, so that after the wars, "foes become friends and brothers in arms, or just brothers."
The evening included entertainment by former New York Metropolitan Opera singer Ariel Bybee and the Southern Virginia University Chamber Choir.
It was the first night of a celebration, which opened to the public on Dec. 3, that continues until Jan. 2, 2005. Besides the lights outside, inside the visitors center there are international Christmas trees exhibiting dolls donated from more than 90 embassies in Washington, and a creche exhibit featuring nativity scenes from 37 countries.