WASHINGTON, D.C. — Symbolic of the peace and life that light can bring in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and their aftermath in the United States, holiday lights were illuminated on the Washington D.C. Temple grounds Wednesday, Nov. 28.
Elder Sheldon F. Child of the First Quorum of the Seventy and North America East Area president, and Guenter Burghardt, Ambassador of the Delegation of the European Commission, co-hosted the opening night of the 24th annual Festival of Lights. They shared the duty of turning on the lights in opening-night ceremonies attended by 25 ambassadors, other diplomats, lawmakers and guests in the visitors center's 540-seat theater.
Elder Child recognized the various faiths represented by those in attendance. "The love of God and the love of our fellowmen is the essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ . . . this great tenet of compassion is taught, not only in Christianity, but in major religions throughout the world," said Elder Child.
"We saw this compassion evidenced in the events of Sept. 11 . . . people of all nationalities, races and religions reaching out to others in love."
He shared how the Church celebrates the birth of Christ along with the rest of the Christian world.
"He is there to be a light for us in troubled times. . . . We would all concur that we are living in troubled times. . . . We need His Light to show us the way," Elder Child said.
"In every creed and culture, light symbolizes life, hope and renewal," said Ambassador Burghardt, the 12th host ambassador of the event since 1990. Then he added, "Let us dedicate each of the more than 300,000 lights to the memory of those who lost their lives."
Elder J.W. Marriott Jr., an Area Authority Seventy, served as honorary chairman of the Festival of Lights. In his remarks, he said, "As we light these 300,000 lights tonight, let us remember that the light of Christmas is the light of Christ."
A highlight of the evening was a performance by renowned tenor Stanford Olsen accompanied by an 80-member choir of members of the Church in the Washington, D.C., area and a 15-piece orchestra. The musical program featured several pieces from Handel's "Messiah." The culmination was a countdown video to the lighting.
The lighting ceremony is an annual event that helps kick off the holiday season in the Washington, D.C. area.
"It's our gift to the community," said Ann Santini, director of International Affairs for the Church in Washington, D.C.