Dr. Cuthbert A. Edwards President and General Superintendent, South Caribbean District The Methodist Church
Central to the event we celebrate as Christians is the birth of Jesus the Christ, born some two thousand years ago. It was a birth that promised to bestow peace as justice to our world and in the hearts of men and women, boys and girls, among nations and peoples of every race, colour and clime and the structures and systems that organise human affairs.
The birth, however, took place in conditions that were far from peaceful as the very nation in which the birth took place was dominated by the Roman Empire. These were conditions of rule by might, love of power, prosperity by the rich at the expense of the poor and marginalisation of the vulnerable.
Moreover, the King, Herod, on hearing of the birth of the child slaughtered all the children who were two years of age and under in and around Bethlehem. The action on the part of the King led to wailing and loud lamentation by the mothers, other relatives and no doubt the larger community. The children were at the risk of being destroyed at the hands of the King and the Empire.
As such, Jesus the Christ was born into hard and harsh socio-economic condition to working class, unmarried parents. In his birth is the understanding of God coming to us in human flesh to share in the hurts, pains, joys and limitations of human life. In this small, fragile and dependent Child is God in human flesh who knows our smiles and tears. This is the Event we celebrate!!
This year, throughout the world and within the District Conference, we celebrate the coming of the Christ Child, the Prince of Peace amidst conditions that are also far from peaceful, far from right relations between the rich and the poor, powerful and vulnerable, and in which children are often the victims of the violence of disregard from ruling administration and duty of care from guardians and guards.
The world continues to recover from the agony of the tragedy in Newtown in which 20 children were slaughtered with the gun and in China where 22 were wounded by a man wielding a knife; and we are reminded of the killing of nine children in Afghanistan by the NATO-led forces as the perpetrators are brought to justice.
There are also the harsh economic conditions brought about by economic systems conditioned by market values and profit, unsavoury political situations and a world in which the moral fabric of society continues to deteriorate.
The failure in any drastic improvement in the world economy is attended by high unemployment especially among the young, a decrease in real income for many and an increase in the cost of living for all and with many more persons existing below the poverty line.
This condition has been worsened by unstable political conditions in many parts of our world with mass protests and the deposing of regimes in some areas. In certain regards the political situation has been tumultuous. All these have had their impact on us and in particular our children and young people.
The Caribbean continues to make reasonable progress in child development in areas such as health care, education, sports and legal protection, however there are areas of concern. The children of our region are being shaped and nurtured more by the global media at the service of big business than by their parents, the church and the school.
The Christmas celebration with its emphasis on the material and greed is just a reminder of this fact. In reality, it could be said that children in our region are becoming a mere item in the budgetary agenda of powerful corporations and their collaborators in the advertising industry to the point of becoming an endangered species.
In Barbados, and indeed across the world, children are the victims of all types of abuse as well as the lack of adequate supervision, exposure to questionable lifestyles, parental neglect and poor or non-existent parenting skills.
One teacher commented recently that the experiences that children encounter today, members of her generation never had to encounter and it is grossly unfair that at their age, children today have to cope with such issues and challenges. All is not well with our children and in some cases, nothing is well.
Celebrating the Event of the birth of Jesus the Christ calls for us to remember that at the heart of the universe is a person who directs the march of history and destiny of nations. Therefore, it is not the gathered councils of the boards, cabinets, parliaments, senates and military that are in control; but more like the heart that beats in the God-made child, Jesus.
It is not the evil deeds of men and women that will triumph ultimately, because the wrong shall fail, the right will prevail with peace as justice on earth and goodwill to all. Despite all that surrounds the event we celebrate, the coming of God into the world as a child is to the end that we might experience God in relationship.
Let us remember and celebrate that the God-made child, is not “above the fray” but rather very much “within the fray”. In Jesus, Christ, God shares in all of our experiences no matter how traumatic, difficult or challenging they maybe this Christmas and beyond. It is therefore a season, not of despair, but of hope. Celebrate the hope we have in Jesus the Christ! We do have a hope to celebrate.
It is my hope that whatever may be your situation this Christmas Day that you will experience Emmanuel! God with us. I pray that God’s presence will offer you hope and so enrich your life that others may be blessed through you.
I wish you, your relatives and loved ones a peaceful, just, holy and blessed celebration of this the Festival of the Nativity, and every good wish for the New Year.