For the past thirteen years, I have had the pleasant duty of bringing Christmas greetings to Jamaicans everywhere. While much has changed in our nation during this period, our strong Christian tradition of celebrating the birth of Jesus continues to be an important part of our annual calendar. We all recognize that the holiday season is coming when the cool, refreshing Christmas breeze begins to blow and the Christmas flowers begin to bloom. Then, our thoughts turn to family and friends, especially the children. Like most Jamaicans at home and overseas, I have usually celebrated the season in traditional ways: always remembering to give God thanks; giving treats to the children; making sure that the elderly are given added attention; contributing to various charities so as to bring Christmas cheer to the needy; singing Christmas carols and enjoying the Christmas songs; drinking some sorrel and eating Christmas cake and opening the presents under the tree.
Each year, I have urged you, in the midst of all the celebrations, to remember those among us who have suffered the loss of loved ones during the course of the year, to give them extra consideration as they go through their first Christmas without these special persons in their lives.
I do so again this year and ask that when, at the end of this welcome break in our daily routine, we once again begin to deal with the social and economic issues that dominate our attention, we confront one of the most pressing issues that our nation faces. I refer to the need to rebuild the quality of our family life. We must nurture the children in our care; provide them with emotional and financial security not just at Christmas but throughout the year. We must build their self-esteem and self-awareness.
We cannot continue to allow this fundamental responsibility to take second place to the pursuit of material gain. There is strong evidence that much of the decline in our social cohesiveness can be attributed to this change in our traditional way of life.
As we gather for the season and observe our great Jamaican Christmas customs, let this be a new beginning. Let us determine to make a much greater effort, whatever our social or economic standing, wherever we live, in urban or rural areas, whether we are rich or poor, young or old. We must restore our sense of duty; concern ourselves not only with our personal well-being but also the interests of our entire community. There is strength in unity of purpose and action. That is the only way forward.
I quote from the Book of the Corinthians:
“Now I beseech you, brethren [and may I add sistren] by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, [that ye all speak the same thing, and] that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.”
This year, once again, as we join with millions of Christians around the world in celebrating this Holy Season, let us recall the message of the Angels on that special night more than 2000 years ago: that a Child is born unto us to bring love, peace and goodwill to each other.
Let us never forget the Christ in Christmas.
As always, I urge you to remember with gratitude those who must remain on duty to protect us so we can enjoy this brief period of rest from our everyday stresses. I speak of those in the essential services, our utility companies, at our airports, in the transportation sector, in our health services, our fire services and our security forces.
I remind you to display special courtesy and consideration on our roads and at the many public events that we all enjoy at this time of year. Let us treat each other with kindness; conduct ourselves with decency and show respect for ourselves, for each other and for the laws of the land.
As we come to the end of another year, and take a brief rest from the challenges that lie ahead, let us give thanks for the blessings that the Almighty has bestowed upon us. May we keep in mind the words of the writer, Agnes Pharo:
“What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future. It is a fervent wish that every cup may overflow with blessings rich and eternal, and that every path may lead to peace.”
I pray that the shining star, the symbol of this season with its promise of hope, peace and love will remain in the hearts of every Jamaican, wherever you may be, now, and for years to come.
Merry Christmas everyone.