As we celebrate our first Christmas as a republic, it is an honour and a special privilege for me as the first homegrown Head of State to greet Barbadians at home and abroad, residents in our beautiful country and visitors who have chosen to spend this special time of the year with us.
As the Head of State of our republic, I feel a keen sense of Barbadian pride, nationalism, and humility for I am cognisant of the great responsibility which has been entrusted to me, part of which is to seek to influence the lives of our young people.
I wish to thank all those persons and organisations that have taken the time to send messages of congratulations. Your thoughtfulness is greatly appreciated.
As we prepare to celebrate another Christmas and as always at this time of the year to reflect on the story of the birth of the Christ child, we should consider the road – both the physical and the mentally taxing road – travelled by Mary and Joseph prior to the birth of the baby Jesus.
It was not a smooth journey. Indeed, Mary and Joseph had to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem where the Prince of Peace would be born in a manger because there was no room in the inn. According to the commentators, it was a journey of about ninety miles, from one place to the next, and with the mode of travel at that time, only ten miles were covered in a day. It was difficult terrain, uphill and downhill, in addition to which it was winter time.
Despite, and because of the difficulties encountered, the birth of Jesus over two thousand years ago was a time for celebration as was told by the shepherds, the wise men and later at the temple, by Simeon and Anna the prophetess. It was the birth of the promised Saviour of the world. Today, for Christians worldwide, despite the difficulties we encounter, it is no less of a celebration as we commemorate the birth of the Saviour, who is also with us now and every day of the year.
As the story is recorded in St. Luke’s Gospel we hear tell of the fear of the shepherds when the angels appeared, before that fear was turned to joy when they received the glad tidings of great joy and saw the rejoicing of the heavenly hosts praising God giving “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace goodwill towards men”.
While this time of the year is usually linked to gift giving, to celebration and to joy, the birth of Jesus is a reminder of God’s love for mankind, the hope of change for the better and the peace that Jesus offers that passes all understanding.
We have not like Mary and Joseph had to physically traverse difficult terrain but we can agree that we have had a year with many twists and turns in our own journey. It has been extremely challenging for several families. We have lost family and friends as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and this loss is felt even more keenly at this time of the year.
We have all experienced the ashfall as a result of the eruption of the La Soufrière Volcano and we were all impacted by Hurricane Elsa. I am sure that you will be quick to remind me also of the freak storm which preceded Hurricane Elsa.
We have all had to live in the new “normal” life, in a COVID-19 environment either willingly or grudgingly and whether we want to admit it or not, there have yet been many positives that we can take away, namely our resilience as a people, a greater sense of community living, a renewed caring and sharing, a greater appreciation for the simple things of life, the entrepreneurial spirit of Barbadians and the need to stay in touch with our loved ones.
I frequently hear in the media of several groups and organisations, large and small, which are making the extra effort to give support to persons in need. Our health care teams have worked tirelessly over the past two years to battle the COVID-19 pandemic.
It was very heartwarming recently to see some of our school children preparing hampers for some of their less fortunate peers. This is the Barbados in which I grew up and have grown accustomed to. I said recently in my Inauguration Address on the 30th November, we are each other’s and our nation’s keepers and must remain committed to our country and each other.
We must give thanks. There is so much to be thankful for at this Christmas time.
In this respect, many of us have been living the message of the Christmas story, giving love, spreading joy, sharing peace and living with the hope that the birth of Christ has promised and Jesus himself, in his teaching, has reaffirmed.
There is always the opportunity to extend our reach to do more in some way to benefit others.
I am concerned however about the number of persons who have lost their lives in violent situations. There is a need for less confrontation and aggression. We must all value life and the right to life and focus on peaceful living.
At this Christmas time, let us have a positive outlook and live as Jesus has shown us in his time on earth.
We need not fear the future for again as I reminded in my Inauguration Address: God’s plans for us are plans of prosperity and hope for the future. We are also reminded by the second verse of our national anthem that:
“The Lord has been the people’s guide
For past three hundred years
With him still on the people’s side
We have no doubts or fears
Upward and onward we shall go
Inspired, exulting, free
And greater will our nation grow
In strength and unity.”
As we celebrate, let us put Christ not only in our Christmas but in every day of the year by the constant sharing of joy, peace, love and hope of the Season.
I wish each and every one of you a Merry Christmas.
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