2017 Christmas Message

Theme: We Still Have Jesus - The Reason for the Season

My fellow Citizens and Residents of Dominica,
The nativity of the Christ Child took place under trying circumstances for the people of Judea and for His earthly parents, Mary and Joseph, as Herod the King of Judea had ordered that a census be taken and that all of the people had to go to their ancestral towns and villages to be registered. Mary and Joseph had to go from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to the City of David in Judea, called Bethlehem, because he, Joseph, was descended from the House of David.

Arriving in Bethlehem, Joseph found that all accommodation was already taken up as many people had come to Bethlehem to be registered for the census. He was literally without shelter on that cold winter's night and had to take refuge in a stable where his wife, Mary, gave birth to the Christ Child, Jesus.

Mary and Joseph were like many of us who found ourselves on the morning of September 19th without shelter as our roofs and in many cases our entire home had been destroyed by the winds of Maria and/or by the floods and landslides triggered by the rains of Maria.

It will take us a while as a People and as a Nation to fully recover from the ravages of the night of September 18, 2017 but we ought not to allow this horrendous ordeal to take control of our lives to the extent that it becomes the determining factor in decision making that involves our relationship with our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Some of us are so caught up in dealing with the many challenges and difficulties posed by Hurricane Maria and its aftermath, that we have attached little or no time to recognize and celebrate this momentous event of the birth of the Christ Child, Jesus, who was sent into this world in fulfillment of the scriptures to atone for our sins and transgression so as to reconcile us with God our Creator.

These preoccupations are human reactions and are expected and well understood as an immediate knee-jerk reaction. However, we will all agree that dwelling on the damages and losses will not help, but only further overwhelm us. Our focus instead has to be on rebuilding our society better and stronger.

There are many lessons to be learnt from Maria one of which is that the things of this world are short term and can be replaced. What is irreplaceable is life and our relationship with the Lord, and with our friends and family. What better time to reflect on this than at Christmas? So as children of God, we should not be in doubt whether we should be celebrating Christmas this year or not, simply because we are unable to prepare traditionally for this special occasion. Yes, the festivities do add a flavour to the observance of Christmas but at the end of it all, it is the spiritual preparation that truly matters. So let us gather all the losses, the pains, the fears, the frustration, the difficulties, the burdens and the challenges, and cast them all at the feet of our Lord as Psalm 55 verse 22 tells us: "Cast your cares upon the Lord Jehovah and he will support you."

Thomas a Kempis warned in his devotional book: The Imitation of Christ, Chapter IX - page 105 that:
"A Christian is nothing without Jesus, whom the Father has given us in order to be our light, our wisdom, our strength, our consolation, our hope, our joy, and Our all. So the same reasons that should induce us to love him above all things, should oblige us to choose him for our most particular, our most intimate, and most familiar friend. If we possess him in this manner, we possess all the riches in the world, but if we lose him, we lose all."

So my dear brothers and sisters, we may have lost our roofs, we may have lost our homes, we may have lost loved ones, we may have lost our jobs, our businesses; no matter our trials and tribulations, we should be thankful to be alive and take solace in knowing that in spite of the storm we still have Jesus - our Wonderful Counsellor and Prince of Peace whose love is everlasting. This is wonderful news that should cause us all to rejoice and celebrate the savior's birth this time of year. We should also use the opportunity to show gratitude for God's love, for were it not for his great love and mercies, considering the intensity of Maria, the death toll could have been much higher.

There is so much to be thankful for, to be grateful for and to hope for this Christmas and beyond. With tremendous effort, hard work, commitment, dedication and resilience on our part and the support of our regional partners and the international community, we have made tremendous progress in our relief and recovery effort which is quite evident by simply looking around. The Curfew Order has been lifted as of the 8th day of December 2017, road and utility services have largely been restored, and the focus is now on recovery and rebuilding better. Government is committed to doing everything it can to revive the economy. In addition to prioritizing essential social protection services, Government has been mapping out ways and means to bring about the fastest and strongest recovery possible.

It is well established that we in Dominica are prone to numerous natural disasters including those which are aggravated by events whose frequency and severity are fueled by climate change. We have also been told by the experts that the adverse effects of climate change will increase and intensify, a fact that we can all attest to, having experienced the ravages of Hurricane David, Tropical Storm Erika and more recently Hurricane Maria. The challenge now is to put the necessary mechanisms in place to help mitigate future damage and losses. Government has therefore taken the initiative to develop a plan to rebuild Dominica as the first climate resilient nation. This new vision has received the endorsement and support of the international community and a number of countries and agencies have pledged technical support and financing towards this effort. A decision has therefore been taken to established, outside of the public service system, a new executing agency named the Climate Resilient Executing Agency for Dominica (CREAD). This agency will be charged with the responsibility to coordinate all reconstruction work.

Considering where we were three months ago and where we are today and anticipate to be in the medium term, we have every reason to rejoice and celebrate this Christmas and to look to the future with great optimism.

We are in this war to combat climate change together, as one people with a common heart, a common mind, and a common purpose, and to rebuild a better, stronger and climate resilient country that will serve as a model to others. The road to full recovery will be long and hard but with our Lord and Savior on our side, coupled with the support of our regional partners and international community, we will overcome.

Let us all during this festive season recommit our lives to Christ and share the love and peace of Christ with each other. As we share special moments with family and friends, let us also make a concerted effort to reach out to our disadvantaged brothers and sisters who are hungry, homeless, naked, sick and/or imprisoned.

I also implore you to always remember and lift up in prayer the members of the essential services, who will be working during the Christmas Season in order that the rest of us can enjoy a sense of safety and security throughout the season. I refer in particular to the members of the Commonwealth of Dominica Police Force, Fire and Ambulance Services, the State Prisons, Customs and Immigration Departments; employees of the Sea and Air Ports Authority and other public utilities, the Doctors, Nurses and Health Care Workers. We should also remember in a special way, our regional first responders and all those who stood and continue to stand in solidarity with us in the aftermath of Maria and also the families and friends of the victims who lost their lives during the passage of Hurricanes Irma and Maria both locally and regionally.

With the assurance of God's steadfast love and the tremendous blessings that lie ahead, my wife and I extend to every Dominican citizen at home and abroad and to all residents of our beloved country our very best wishes for a Blessed Christmas Season and a Healthy and Productive New Year!

In spite of whatever you may be going through, do not give up on our Lord, He is the reason for the Season. He is with us now and will always be with us to sustain us and to provide for our every need.

May the Good Lord continue to bless us all.

Posted: 20/12/2017

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