Christmas message: a time for reflection
This, sadly, will be our last Christmas in Bermuda — or, if it is not, we will be here as returning tourists, boosting the arrivals figures at the end of a year!
Like many others, this year we have family members with us. And, as with others, this Christmas festival at the end of the calendar year often stimulates some reflection on the year passed and the year ahead. More than any other time of the year, this is a time for family, and for reflection.
We think of our own families. In mine, the joy of seeing small grandchildren discover the world afresh, the sadness of the peaceful death of a much-loved father-in-law at the end of a long and fulfilling life. Like many families in Bermuda, we are also scattered across seas and borders this Christmas. And we have much to be thankful for.
I am also regularly reminded of how much Bermuda itself is a family. So many people are connected to each other, by blood, by relationships and, even beyond the literal meaning of family, by other, close, longstanding ties. Several times this year, Margaret and I have had the privilege of feeling particularly part of that family: walking along Front Street in the happy excitement during the America's Cup World Series; or shouting myself hoarse watching Bermuda's football team in action. And sometimes sharing in times of shock and sadness.
As in all families there are moments of argument: but there is a precious family unity here too which everyone can help strengthen — and, I hope, all can reflect for a moment before doing or saying things that weaken it.
And, despite its physical isolation, Bermuda is tied to the rest of the world, to an extent that still sometimes startles me. Last month Margaret and I returned from a visit to a school just in time for her to join a work meeting being done online, chaired by someone in Madrid whom she didn't know. When she mentioned she had just come back from visiting a school, the man in Madrid asked what school — and then turned out to have attended it, Whitney Institute, himself.
Bermuda's net of family relationships, not to mention business relationships, spans the world. We are, sometimes helpfully, isolated from some bad things that go on. But probably less than we think, or hope. And, in any case, we should not try to isolate ourselves.
I have been impressed again this year by the organisations and individuals who have taken groups of young and not so young Bermudians to help to meet needs elsewhere in the world. Individuals, churches and other groups have contributed funds to help others. Part of the Christmas story itself includes a refugee family fleeing the threat of violence in the Middle East, and seeking safety in another country: Christ's own family, going to Egypt to avoid Herod's slaughter.
Even when Bermuda faces relatively tough times, and for many, economic hardship remains a daily reality, we can be aware that we are lucky. We are spared many of the horrors of strife and extreme poverty that are still much too widespread.
As I have said, this will be my last Christmas message here. I have not gone yet. But looking back at the four Christmas seasons that I have been here, I realise that there are very distinct Bermuda Christmas memories that will stay with us. The North Village Band Carol concert in front of the historic buildings on Queen Street in Hamilton; and the Salvation Army Band playing to shoppers from a balcony on Reid Street; our annual frustration at not being able to do the Christmas Walkabout in St George's for different reasons each year and being told each year what a wonderful event it is; and visiting each year the remarkable residents of several of the care homes and some, now familiar, faces in MAWI. All these will become happy memories and are pure Bermuda.
But a central message of Christmas here and throughout the world, celebrated in this Christian festival but a reasonable challenge to all, is the message of goodwill to all mankind. We can each, whatever our faith — if any — rededicate ourselves to that. I wish you all a happy, peaceful Christmas and God's blessing for 2016.