Fellow Barbadians, it is that time of the year when again across the world we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ just upwards of two thousand years ago.
I am pleased to address you on this occasion as we reflect on the account of an event which does not grow old as we that are human grow old. The freshness of the Christmas story is a continuing stimulus to our faith as Christians.
At Christmas time, we have tended to focus primarily on the birth of the baby Jesus but on this occasion I have chosen to focus on His parents, the law-abiding couple, Mary and Joseph. In faithful discharge of their duty as good citizens in a vast Roman Empire, they responded to a decree by the Emperor that a census was to be carried out and that they should be registered. It was during this simple demonstration of good and exemplary citizenship that the miracle of a virgin giving birth to a child in a manger at Bethlehem happened.
The world has ever since then continued to feel the reverberations of that miracle. People who had up to that time walked in darkness, were able thereafter to see a great light.
Even as the light which Christ represents has been the answer to the darkness that enveloped the world before His coming, so also has the idea of right which He symbolises been the answer to the many wrongs that haunt our world from day to day.
The truth which Christ embodies has been the antidote to the spread of falsehoods which have threatened to poison our environment from time to time. The reign of divine justice which His coming proclaimed continues to shake at their very foundations the many injustices which act as a stain on human civilization.
In the same way that good, responsible citizenship by Mary and Joseph two thousand years ago prepared the way for the miracle of a virgin birth that would guarantee the redemption of fallen man, so too good, responsible citizenship on our part can today, in our time, lay the foundation for bringing to fruition the miracles for which we hope.
The Christmas story teaches us that it is not in avoiding our duties as citizens that miracles will happen. It is rather, in discharging our duties as citizens, that the miracles we so earnestly desire and of which we so passionately speak, can take place.
The economic miracles that we long for cannot happen just by the mere act of longing. Good citizenship requires that we be prepared to work harder in our many spheres of daily endeavour. We must set out to give that full day’s work for the full day’s pay which we expect. We must produce, whether goods or services, to the full extent of our capacities. And, most important, evading or avoiding our duty as citizens to pay our fair share of taxes will not produce the economic miracle we all want to enjoy.
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As with the economic miracle, so also with the social miracle. If we default on our responsibility as good citizens to each play our part in promoting and ensuring the common good, we will not achieve the social miracle of a balanced and inclusive society characterized by peace and goodwill towards one another.
Nor will the miracle happen if we fail to set proper examples for our children such as respect for others, and the importance of discipline, of contentment and of setting high standards of excellence for themselves in all that they do.
A social miracle will continue to elude us if our emphasis is on what we can get rather than on what we can give, or on acquiring status for ourselves rather than rendering service to our fellow man.
As we celebrate yet another Christmas season, therefore, let us take time to reflect on the good citizenship of Mary and Joseph two thousand years ago which provided both the context and the background for a miracle that would forever benefit mankind. Let us reflect on our own good citizenship as the context and background for the social and economic miracles we wish to experience in our own time.
Let us, inspired by the example and role of Mary and Joseph, resolve to be good, caring and responsible citizens of Barbados, determined by our actions to create the conditions for those miracles which will bring about the spiritual, social and economic renewal of our beloved nation.
May we as Barbadians take time to reflect on the Christmas story in its fullness, even as we celebrate in our traditional ways the birth of Jesus Christ who came to save mankind.
On behalf of the Cabinet of Barbados and on behalf of my family and myself, I should like to extend best wishes to all of you for a blessed Christmas and a healthy, happy, productive and prosperous 2018.