2019 Christmas Message to the Nation
By Bishop Joseph J.S. Atherley
Leader of the Opposition
Fellow citizens, residents and guests, Season’s greetings. This is that time of year when particularly warm sentiments are exchanged among and towards family, friends and even strangers.
What makes the time one of special sentiment and celebration is the universal joy associated with the season. Even more so is the glad news associated with the birth of Jesus and the grace of heaven embodied therein.
It is in that grace that all of us find blessing. It is God’s favour upon us. This is realized in His goodness to each of us and His beneficence upon our land.
We have much indeed to be grateful for as a people. This, notwithstanding our problems with our economy and the negatives associated with undesirable features in today’s society.
We give thanks for the measure of success that has attended our national efforts at economic, social and human development, and the level of productivity, progress and prosperity we have achieved in the pursuit of our national well-being.
We give thanks for stable government, for functional institutions of service, for a good measure of exemplary leadership across society, for peace and relative calm, for unthreatened freedom, for protection from storm, for family and enduring friendships.
Yet even with a high sense of gratitude to God, there is the realization that in too many instances neighbourly relations are beset with tensions; households are challenged; community cohesion is diminished.
The celebration of Christmas is much in part about our reflection on the reality that the grace embodied in Jesus enables any and all of us to proffer to each other peace; to practise that peace in all circumstances, and to demonstrate goodwill to all, irrespective of their situation or ours.
In times of acute need, or faced with a chronic sense of disadvantage or inequity, contention and conflict rather than complementarity and collegiality may be the dominant impulses which drive our communal behaviour.
These negative impulses are manifesting themselves in our country to too high an extent at the moment. Family friction and stress, youth violence, capital greed, political tribalism, self-serving leadership are all testament to the fact that contention and conflict are too dominant as behavioural drivers in our blessed country today.
I appeal today to our monied class to understand that the poverty-related circumstances of the birth of Jesus signalled the Father’s purpose to uplift the poor. That same purpose should also attend your business considerations.
To families under stress, I remind you that there were both private and public tensions associated with the family circumstances of Jesus. I do implore you to let a higher wisdom guide both your sentiment and your actions.
For our youth population, I pray that as you increase in stature, you will also grow in wisdom and in favour with God and peers. To those among you now guided by the impulses of deviance, I urge you to the understanding that our nation’s future is in your hands. That your future is in your hands. That each premature death to violence diminishes each of us; diminishes you.
To all, I encourage your embrace of the life principles espoused in the teachings of Jesus and modelled by him.
To genuinely celebrate his birth is to acknowledge his blessings. It is to endorse his teaching. It is to embrace the enduring hope that Jesus embodies. It is to internalize a philosophy of civic grace that helps us see the worth in each other and the value in each relationship; to commit to empowering each other as we pursue purposeful and wholesome national growth and development.
I want to wish for each of you every good thing this holiday season and for the coming new year. Do always be conscious of the truth that if our Father in heaven would offer to mankind the gift of his son, there isn’t anything that he will not do or give to meet you at your point of need.
May each of us resolve this season and for the new year, to purpose goodwill to all and to practise peace among ourselves. For it is in seeking better for the other person that each of us finds better for ourselves and betterment for our nation.
On behalf of the Opposition, on behalf of The People’s Party, on behalf of my family and myself, may I offer every good wish to you and yours for a blessed Christmas, a healthy and happy new year.