“A ray of hope flitters in the sky; a shiny star lights up way up high. All across the land dawns a brand new morn; this comes to pass when a child is born..”
— When A Child Is Born, lyrics by Fred Jay
Traditionally, December 25 marks one of three very significant dates on the Christian calendar; with the other two being the Good Friday crucifixion and Easter resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The Nativity story is simple yet meaningful to believers. A babe, the son of God, was born in a lowly manger. This babe was sent to be the Saviour of the world. He is ordained to be “the light” in a world filled with darkness or bleakness.
The Biblical story of the birth of the Christ child signals hope for humanity. In essence, Christians believe that it provides them with the chance of a brighter, better tomorrow.
If ever there was ever a time that we all need hope it is the year 2020. Given all that mankind has had to endure, this year, we are all holding on to and holding out for hope.
The novel coronavirus, COVID-19, has touched and rocked almost every territory on this planet. The deadly pandemic has claimed 1.73 million lives worldwide. There have been 44 million people who have recovered and close to 80 million reported cases.
It is the worst health crisis the world has faced in this century.
Not only has it caused family and friends to lose loved ones it has inflicted an unprecedented and harsh blow on the economies where there are infected people.
COVID-19 has altered the way we socialise as a people. Some have not physically seen their older loved ones in months. The wearing of masks has now become par for course. Its impact socially is especially evident at a time like this, the Yuletide Season, where people usually gather in large numbers with loved ones to celebrate.
Social scientists, psychologists, psychiatrist and social workers are still trying to gauge the full extent of the mental impact. The mental impacts are many: the mental impact of losses of loved ones and jobs; the impact of being confined for a prolonged period; the impact on the lack of social life; the impact or increase in possible rise in abuse.
You did not have to be directly infected with the deadly virus in order to experience its devastation.
We watched the world battle this monster. We saw hospitals around the world on the brink. We saw footage of dead bodies piling up and having to be burnt. No funeral services so that family and friends can say a formal “goodbye”.
We heard news of world leaders and well-known personalities who contracted the virus. Major sporting and entertainment events such as the Olympics, the Grammy Awards and the Oscars were all abandoned.
Here in Barbados, we have done a great job in managing and containing the spread of COVID-19. To date we have recorded seven deaths, 345 cases and 290 people have recovered. We are now being billed as a “safe destination” given the numbers in some of our neighbouring Caribbean countries and around the world.
However, while we have a relatively low number of cases per capita our economy has taken a brutal blow. While our ports remained opened, thousands of commercial flights were cancelled and the cruise sector came to a screeching halt as other territories had banned travel in their countries. Our tourism sector has been hard hit, while other sectors have been affected as well.
Only yesterday Barbados TODAY reported that the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) warned that the entire Caribbean faces long-lasting harm from the COVID-19 pandemic. The IDB said “ the economy is projected to contract by 15.3 per cent in 2020” adding that the reduced tourism arrivals and constrained economic activity due to social mobility restrictions put in place to combat the virus fueled the decline.
As stated by the experts, our economic outlook appears grim and long-lasting. The uncertainty of the virus adds to this calamity as well. This new strain of the virus has caused fresh lockdowns in key tourism territories and there is the likelihood of it reaching our shores.
In the midst of all this, we still have other health challenges to head off such as dengue and chronic illnesses. The social woes such as poverty and abuse remain with us. The possibility of natural disasters is greater than before with the reality of climate change. Racial tensions and unrest are evident all across the globe. In 2020, the world appears to be at a crossroads. And no one can guarantee that 2021 will be any different.
That is why Christians and believers will hold on tightly to the Biblical story of the Christ child. They will console themselves in that story because there is a desperate need for hope. There is a desperate need to believe in something greater. There is a desperate need to cling to the idea of a better and brighter tomorrow.
And while we accept that not all humans believe in Christianity and therefore the story of the Christ child has little meaning to them we can all agree that a positive outlook is what is needed most at this time.
So whatever your religion is, whether Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Rastafarianism, Judaism, Sikhism or any of the other religions around the world, all believers must keep hope alive. Even the atheist needs a reason to get up on mornings and keep going in these challenging times.
If ever there was a time that humanity needed “a ray of hope” the time is now.
From all of us at Barbados TODAY we wish you our valued readers, stakeholders and partners a Merry Christmas and a truly Happy New Year.