Fellow Barbadians at home and overseas, residents and visitors to our shores, it is a pleasure and honour to address you as Barbadians join with Christians around the world to celebrate the birth of Christ, who according to the scriptures, was born in Bethlehem on the 25th day of December, over 2000 years ago.
The circumstances surrounding the birth of the infant Jesus, show that Joseph and Mary were on their way from Galilee in Nazareth to Judea in Bethlehem, where they were going to be registered for the census, ordered by Emperor Caesar Augustus.
Mary???s pregnancy had reached an advanced stage, in that the time for delivery had come. Joseph was faced with a most difficult challenge, for he could not find a suitable place for his wife to be confined, other than in a manger surrounded by farm animals.
Yet from such humble beginnings came a man whose life and works have provided inspiration and hope to Christians the World over.??The story of the birth of the infant Jesus teaches us many things; humility, devotion to family, faith and love. Mary and Joseph could not have had an easy task in seeking to raise their child to become a man. The modern family can learn a great deal about family life from their experiences.
The Christmas story is not new; it is a message of love and goodwill to all people, which should not be limited to the Christmas season of 10 days. It is a message which should endure for all time.
It is a message as important today as it was, when Jesus lived. Given the deep religious, political and economic divisions in the world, the Christmas season offers a brief oasis of calm for people of all faiths to reflect and exchange messages of peace, goodwill and tolerance.
It is easy with the increasing consumerism, to which we all succumb, for the importance of that message to be lost. The essential message of the birth of Christ in a manger is really a message of peace and goodwill to all mankind.
In these somewhat difficult economic times, it is still important to remember that we do not need large sums of money, and elaborate festive decorations, to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas with each other. The importance of family, respect for others, helping those less fortunate, are foundations for our community.
While turmoil in the international economy has subsided, we in Barbados are beginning to experience signs of growth in our own economy, though small. Tourists are beginning to travel again, and Barbados was happy to host several of them earlier in the year. It is our hope that they will continue to visit our beautiful country and enjoy the warmth and hospitality of our friendly people.
At Christmas time, we should be mindful of the need of others, and extend a helping hand to those less fortunate, those who maybe alone, sick, or unable to enjoy the festivities, as they would wish. We pray for those in need of comfort, and those who minister to them as doctors, nurses or family members and carers.
Here we remember with deep sorrow the relatives of the four young ladies who perished in the car crash, not far from Government House. The impact of the collision will last long in the memory of those of us here as it pierced the night.
We knew immediately that a tragedy of some kind was about to unfold, the immediate sirens confirmed this. The loss of such young lives always strikes a terrible chord with us as we ponder what their futures might have been, and how much they had to live for, so much promise and potential cut short.
We grieve also with others who have lost loved ones here and abroad. This loss occurs sometimes in unimaginable circumstances, whether through the act of a single individual acting alone or through larger acts of terrorism or civil war.
Our hearts go out also, to the thousands of refugees who were forced to flee their homes in Syria, and seek shelter all over Europe and elsewhere, enduring much hardship and causing much dislocation in countries unable or unwilling to receive them.
We also remember those distant from our shores who have suffered random acts of terrorism in Africa, France, the Middle East, the USA and elsewhere. The global community has to re-affirm our common humanity and values, and resolve to dedicate ourselves to democracy for all peoples, and the rule of law.
This year Barbados has experienced several unusual shocks from earthquakes, but we have so far been spared the ravages of such earthquakes and hurricanes, for which we are truly thankful to Almighty God for his mercy towards us. We have not however been spared the terrible effects of climate change.
Rainfall has been spasmodic and the drought in certain parts of the country has adversely affected crops and livestock. There was shortage of water in the north of the island where I grew up and elsewhere.
As a community, we have to work together to help each other and continue to apply our limited resources for the benefit of all, and join with the international community in pressing ahead with measures to protect the environment, from man???s sometimes cavalier approach to our common heritage.
It was gratifying to note how swiftly my Government and people responded to the citizens of Dominica who suffered greatly from the floods which occurred before Tropical Storm Erica struck. Our Defence Force must be congratulated, and so must be the Government, for going to the aid of one of our regional partners in time of dire emergency, and donating what we could to that country???s recovery effort.
It is hoped that the people of Dominica will be able to recover and resettle within a reasonable time, and take some comfort from the support available from Barbadians and the entire Caribbean who wish them well at this most difficult time in their history.
Over the past twelve months there has been no noticeable decrease in the number of centenarians whom I have visited. By the end of this year, God willing, I will make some 23 such visits.
These visits are enjoyable, especially when the centenarian is articulate and able to recall particular events of their long life and bits of local history which I often have not heard before. Each individual has a different perspective in a long and sometimes difficult life journey. In addition to these, I have continued to visit our future citizens as well.
My visits to the Primary schools have become a most delightful and enjoyable cultural exercise. The students are very lively and energetic; they and their dedicated teachers have often practised hard to provide an enriching experience and entertainment. Students ask a lot of questions, they sing, they dance and recite poetry with obvious enjoyment and joie de vivre.
This makes me very happy and of our schools and educators, hopeful for the future. I hope they enjoy the experience as much as I do. I make these visits because I hope that our youth will understand from an early age, what it means to be a citizen of a country, such as ours, connecting both young and old to what makes this nation a special and dynamic place.
I also enjoyed the celebrations for our 49th anniversary of Independence, and I now look forward to enjoying the Yuletide Season, when I hope to have the opportunity to receive my daughter and grandchildren for the Christmas Holidays.
As we celebrate the birth of Christ, let us rededicate ourselves to the virtues of family life, humility, faith and love. The message of peace and goodwill towards men is a universal one which is shared by all peoples wherever they may live and whatever may be their circumstances.
It is my hope that this Christmas season will bring greater peace, less violence and less crime. That it will bring happiness, prosperity and good health to citizens, residents and visitors.
Fellow Barbadians at home and overseas, residents and visitors, on behalf of my wife and family and on my own behalf, I extend to you very best wishes for Christmas and the New Year. May Almighty God continue to be our guide. May He continue to bless Barbados and its people, now and always.
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