And we find ourselves this morning, in keeping with the special cycles ordained by Nature, at this most wonderful time of year – Christmas.
I extend to you heartfelt wishes for the peace and hope, awe and wonder that are the greatest possible gifts during this sacred season.
The birth of Christ, some two thousand years ago, filled with hope and joy hearts that were as different as east is from west.
It quickened the hearts of lowly shepherds who, for countless nights before, had watched their sheep in familiar fields near Bethlehem.
But it also filled with wonder the hearts of kings and wise men – Balthazar, Melchior, and Kaspar – whose learning, wisdom, and knowledge of the heavens caused them to travel great distances from foreign lands, to pay homage to the Christ Child………the Prince of Peace.
We in St. Kitts-Nevis may not be kings or queens, but it is my hope that, like Balthazar and his companions, we can be wise.
It is my further hope that this wisdom will stir within us a readiness to travel whatever distance is required in order to secure for each other, and for our nation, peace. Peace in our families, peace in our communities, peace throughout the land.
The distance I said we must be ready to travel has little to do with miles. Instead this distance, or these distances, refer to the gaps which we all carelessly allow to develop within our families, and within our communities. I have noted, as I am sure you have, that something about the season we celebrate today often seems to have a special power to close these distances: the distance from misunderstanding to understanding; from suspicion to trust; and from alienation to inclusion.
And it is this spiritual and emotional sensitivity, so often brought on by the Christmas season that we must aim to have and keep as our own star of Bethlehem, ever guiding and illuminating our lives.
Even though Christmas, and all that we associate with it, often brings to the fore our gentler emotions; and even though this causes us, as I’ve said, to try to close “distances”, it is also true that some of our families have suddenly lost loved ones to violence. We cannot help but reflect on this fact this Christmas. And we also cannot help but see that if this is to be reversed, the “closing of distances” which we seem to see as essential to the true spirit of Christmas, will now have to be made as great a priority throughout the year, and throughout the Federation, as it is at Christmas.
Two thousand years ago, Fellow Nationals, and Residents, the Magi – the wise men – were led by a star of extraordinary brilliance, through the uncertainty of night, to Bethlehem.
That star continues to shine today – but in a different form.
No longer a celestial body shining in the night sky, it can now be found in the precise message, teachings, and examples of the Prince of Peace – whose birth the Bethlehem star heralded so very long ago. And it is in the process of being guided by that star – and that example – that our families, our communities, and our nation, like the Magi, will find that which we seek.
In his book, entitled Jesus – A Biography, Paul Johnson reminds us that “The world into which Jesus was born was harsh, cruel, violent, and unstable…..” And in many ways, this describes the state of the world today.
It is important for us to note that despite the Divine nature of the Christ Child, he was introduced to us in the context of the family. It was not arranged for him to suddenly emerge in Bethlehem, Nazareth, or elsewhere as a warrior, or a king – in the traditional sense of the word. He was, instead, presented to an innocent – and vulnerable – infant, in order to convey to the world the importance of children – all children – being properly protected……properly guided…….properly nurtured – by responsible, stable adults – along the path to adulthood.
The birth of Christ also delivered another important message – a message that has brought peace and hope to many throughout the millennia. And that is, that it is not our physical and material circumstances that define us, but the state of our souls. Let us ensure, this Christmas season, that our children understand that neither the inability to secure adequate lodging in Bethlehem, nor a childhood spent in Nazareth was greater than the message, the teachings, and the example that have caused Kittitians, Nevisians, and billions of people across the globe to pause, to reflect, and to pay homage each year on this blessed day.
As we talk with our loved ones this Christmas, let us help all involved to remember this.
In ways great and small, people the world over alter their pace at Christmas. They change their patterns……and they often do what is different – and better – as they strive to realize their “better” selves. At Christmas, more than at any other time of year, we find ourselves thinking about persons, near or far, to whom we perhaps should, in some way, express our regard, our compassion, our appreciation, our love. And however fleetingly – this makes the world a better place.
His name, we were told, was called wonderful.
So is this season that bears His name – Wonderful.
And so are the emotions this season stir within us to try…. to strive…. to find ways to be……….better, as we exchange gifts with each other and to those who are less fortunate than we are.
I pray that all that is uplifting and exalted about Christmas will stay in our hearts, the whole year through.