Fellow Barbadians at home and overseas, residents and visitors to our shores, I am delighted to address you, as Christians around the world celebrate the birth of Christ, who, according to the scriptures, was born in Bethlehem some 2000 years ago.
The narrative of the birth of Christ, though very old, still creates a certain fascination, awe and respect, among believers. It is as exciting now as it was when I first heard it, as a young boy growing up, and attending St. Philip The Less Anglican Church, at Boscobelle, St. Peter.
I still find St. Luke???s version fascinating, when it is read in church on Christmas Day, each year. I am sure, Christians everywhere experience the same happiness, joy and humility, as St. Luke himself seemed to have experienced at the time he wrote.
Christmas is traditionally a time to make merry, rejoice, reflect on the events of the first Christmas and contemplate the New Year, while trying to anticipate what the future holds for us.
Life and times in Barbados continue to be a challenge for many. Often, families have great difficulty in trying to make ends meet, with limited resources.??The weather this year has been somewhat extreme with sparse rainfall, followed by severe flooding doing great damage to our infrastructure, homes and crops.
The question of climate change is definitely posing a serious challenge to our way of life. It is something which is receiving attention at the regional and international level. The state of the economy is also a matter, which the Government and its agencies have been striving valiantly to address for some time now.
The experts suggest that there will be some improvement, though small, in the New Year. It is generally felt, however, that the problems which the country faces, can be solved, and will be solved, but patience is needed.
This is a time when we must all pull together, and work for the greater good. It is my view that the combined efforts of all sectors of the community, would greatly assist in building that confidence which is so necessary, for the creation of the climate in which the economy can grow.
Like last year, many will find this Christmas season difficult to manage, if they are unemployed, have lost their homes through fire or otherwise, or are away from their families and loved ones. Despite the many diversions we encounter, we should never forget that Christmas is not about material wealth, and the exchange of expensive gifts.
The essential symbolism, surrounding the birth of the infant Jesus, is a message of humility, of peace and hope, love and tolerance, which is as important now as it was when He lived. The lesson to be learnt is, that the strong should seek to help the weak.
We must therefore remember the poor, the infirm, and the sick, and seek to share the little we have with others, not only at Christmas but throughout the year. We thank those in the business community, and the voluntary sector, who at times like this, make donations to the less fortunate.
We can all play our part in helping our neighbours, if we know that they may be in need. The beauty, loveliness and grandeur of the Christmas message, is that it is constant and unchanging. Its abiding principles are handed down from generation to generation.
They speak to us, not just to show good will to other believers, but to extend a hand of friendship and love, to those of different faiths, or of no faith. The message of Christmas, speaks to our essential humanity, and the exhortation that we love one another even as we are loved.
There are many areas of our life, where this love of our brothers and sisters, is put into daily practice, and as such we should recognise and express our gratitude, to those who spend their lives in our service. We are truly thankful to our public workers, and carers, our voluntary sectors for extending a helping hand to the less able.
These guiding principles teach us the importance of family, respect for others and that we should always endeavour to help others without hope of reward.??Life at Government House, as usual, has been extremely busy this year. Our Parliament, the third oldest in the Commonwealth, is celebrating its 375th Anniversary.
A reception was held in the Parliament yard, which was jointly hosted, by Parliament, and the Barbados Branch of the Royal Commonwealth Society.The Earl and Countess of Wessex were in Barbados at the time, their presence at the reception was an added attraction. Her Majesty the Queen, had graciously consented for four Beefeaters from the Tower of London, to visit Barbados for the occasion.
The Beefeaters, resplendent in their scarlet and black uniforms and hats, stationed outside the south gate of the Parliament Building, caused Bridgetown to come alive. Locals and tourists alike, admired the spectacle, which was reminiscent of the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace.
The highlight of the commemoration however, was the joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament, which took place on 26th June 2014, in the Chamber of the House of Assembly, where we recalled how far we have travelled along the path to democracy and universal suffrage. It was a great privilege to be invited by Their Honours, The Speaker of the Hon. House of Assembly and the President of the Senate, to preside over and to address the joint Session.
We have just celebrated 48th years as an independent nation. We can be grateful for the solid foundations which have been laid, and for the years of peace and relative prosperity, we have enjoyed, through hard work and careful husbandry.
My visits to the homes of Barbadians who attain the remarkable age of 100 years, are a special part of my duties, which I look forward to very much. It seems that each year, the number of centenarians increases and this is surely testimony to the quality of life in our small island home. Not being content to be consorting only with the seniors, it occurred to me that I should visit some of our primary schools, to see for myself, how the students were doing, and the condition of their schools.
Some of the schools are quite small, with a small number of students and others are large and accommodate a larger number of pupils, who are very lively. All of our young children however share a great enthusiasm for life and learning. I have found my visits to the schools to be a most touching and rewarding experience.
Staff and pupils alike were very welcoming, and seemed pleased to see me. I hope that I was able to provide a few words of encouragement and advice to a younger generation whom we love and care for. Our teachers and support staff perform an important role, and must be supported by all of us, as they seek to mould the future generation of Barbadians to be well-rounded individuals, eager for knowledge and willing to play their part in the future development of our nation.
I also wanted to demonstrate to the youngsters that there is no limit to what they can achieve, however humble may be their background, but they must work hard and keep away from drugs and violence. In our region and further afield times have been difficult, whether it is the unfortunate events in the United States, or the desperately tragic spread of the dreaded Ebola disease, in countries in West Africa.
We pray for those who have lost many members of their family or village in areas, ravaged by this disease, and hope that it can soon be contained. At such times, we are reminded how interconnected our world is, and should express our gratitude to health workers who daily expose themselves to great danger to save others and to try to halt the spread of this and other serious contagious diseases.
It is my hope that this Christmas season will bring peace, happiness, prosperity and good health to citizens, residents and visitors to our shores.??Fellow Barbadians at home and abroad, residents and visitors, on behalf of my wife and family, and on my own behalf, I extend to you the very best wishes for Christmas and the New Year. May the Almighty God continue to bless Barbados and its people now and always.
The video of this Christmas message may be found by clicking here.