Let this Christmas be a time of new beginnings
Yes, it is that time of the year and we are fully into the celebration of the Christmas season with all that it entails.
Most Jamaicans, if not most people all over the world, will agree that this is their favourite part of the year. It certainly is for me. There is hardly any Jamaican who does not welcome the season as it signals the end of a year which many may be anxious to see ended.
Whatever the year might have been up to December, the bells and whistles of Christmas signal a time of abandon when they can truly forget their sorrows. These can now be drowned in a sea of bacchanal, unrestrained pleasure, and religious indulgence.
It is certainly a time when they can truly relax and let down their hair, so to speak. This is so even when the commercial demands of the season create levels of anxiety as we are forced to part with money that we do not have or to get indebted at levels that are bound to haunt us in the new year. Without real discipline and control of the urge to spend, we may find ourselves spending what we do not have only to wake up in the new year with a headache bigger and higher than the Blue Mountain peak. So it should be clear that while we enjoy ourselves we will restrain our worst passions and give ourselves over to a sobriety and patience, which, admittedly, may be hard to find at this time.
The more religious will turn on their religious spigots in celebration of Christmas. The season preceding Christmas, Advent, would have prepared many minds to embrace with patience the hope, love, joy, and peace which is summed up in the person of Jesus Christ, the real reason for their celebration. One does not have to be a Christian to enjoy the religious beauty of the season, summed up in the singing of carols, readings from familiar Bible passages, and connecting in worship with the God who they believe to be at the centre of their veneration. Even the professed atheist would admit that there is something really special about this time as they bask in the glory of the season.
This is the first Christmas after the COVID-19 pandemic that we can really celebrate Christmas without the existential threat of the virus cauterising our enjoyment. In saying this one is mindful that the lingering effects of the pandemic are still with us. There are many who are still suffering from long COVID symptoms, which indicate the extent to which their lives have been altered for good by the virus.
There are many families who will miss a loved one at the dinner table who was lost to COVID-19. There are children who have been orphaned who will not have the benefit of seeing the smiling faces of their parents at Christmas. These are situations that have seriously affected their ability to cope or to bring a sound emotional construct to deal with their presenting problems. We will not be spending time this Christmas evaluating the mental problems that are at the core of the problems we face as a society, but we should nevertheless be mindful that in the midst of our festivities and celebration, there are many who are hurting emotionally.
Concomitant with this, the virus of death by the gun is a reality that has become a deepening, evil force in our society. Just as with COVID-19, there are many families who will miss a loved one lost to the violent criminality that haunts our land. The social contract that is supposed to bind us together as a society has been severely torn. This is clearly mirrored in the anger that persists, in our inability to settle disputes amicably, and in a host of other social dysfunctions that have become far too normative in our society. We have grown very intolerant of each other, and anger has become the preferred mode of settling disputes.
So Christmas comes again not only as an opportunity to have fun, which we must, but to recapture the essential aspects of our being that makes us truly human; that qualifies us to have a brain power larger than that of a lizard; that gives us the capacity to interact with our fellow human beings in positive ways, if even to recognise that our common survival depends upon it. It is a call to a new beginning, to a hope in a future, which, while not easily defined, can help us to anticipate the dawning of a better tomorrow.
It is a call to a new kind of peace of which we would be capable if only we recognise the intrinsic worth in each person and treat each other with respect and dignity. It is a call to a new way of loving each other, wherein the social and economic barriers that separate us are removed and our swords of destruction can be broken down into pruning hooks of production. Finally, it is a call to a new kind of joy not found in the fleeting indulgences of pleasure and licentious living, but in the realisation that as a human being I am significant in the eyes of the one who created me.
You may ask, is he dreaming? Has he had too much to drink? Maybe yes on the dreaming charge, but I sincerely believe that these are the virtues that should stimulate our imagination to be a better person than we currently are. No one is irredeemable for no one is ever outside of his or capacity to be loved and to feel loved. Things can change for us and the society, but if there is to be new beginnings, it has to start with us right where we are.
So I wish for you a fun-filled Christmas but also one of reflection on some of the deeper things of life that can lead you to a brighter and more purposeful new year.
Dr Raulston Nembhard is a priest, social commentator, and author of the books Finding Peace in the Midst of Life’s Storms; The Self-esteem Guide to a Better Life, and Beyond Petulance: Republican Politics and the Future of America. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or email@example.com.