“PEACE AND goodwill to all men” has long been one of the most pervasive greetings associated with the Christmas season and it’s particularly appropriate today, as we stop to consider the birth of Jesus Christ and the larger lessons that are part of the celebration.
Twitter’s other surprising tweeter, @Pontifex, known offline as Pope Francis, offered 111 characters on the season, “Let us free Christmas from the worldliness that has taken it hostage! The true spirit of Christmas is the beauty of being loved by God.”
Christmas in Trinidad and Tobago is a unique blend of cultures, influences and artefacts that make for a very special blend of joy and happiness. Sorrel, pastelles and parang may have come to the particularly festive Trini Christmas from different cultures, but they now blend into a seamless whole that continues to embrace new influences and evolves new traditions.
Today in TT, Christmas is both Christian and national, a time of year that is both deeply felt and religious and heartily embraced and social, a month and a day which are part of the national fabric, reaching across gender, race and religion to knit our country together in a sense of shared happiness.
The warmth, wholesome engagement and pervasive love that have become the hallmark of our local Christmas provide a template for the kind of tolerance and concern that should play a greater role in our nation each day. And that, perhaps, is the greatest challenge of Christmas.
There are patterns, routes and rhythms that lead us to a state of mind and heart that embraces joy, mutual respect and tolerance that feels good and just each December. For some it’s too much rum-soaked Christmas cake and ponche de creme, but for many it’s a realisation, sometimes on a rare visit to a packed church, that as a nation we really are better when we work together with common purpose and an acknowledgement of our differences.
The challenge isn’t in coming to that realisation, but in preserving the glow of Christmas, and taking it forward into the reality of our day-to-day lives with a determination to keep the promises of respect, love and honest collaboration intact.
The Roman Catholic priest Josemaria Escriva, founder of Opus Dei, a movement that lauded the importance of faith among the laity, championed the idea that devotion is earned through work, not a fortunate birth.
Escriva, canonised in 2002, wrote in his book of homilies, Friends of God, “Certainly our goal is both lofty and difficult to attain. But please do not forget that people are not born holy. Holiness is forged through a constant interplay of God’s grace and the correspondence of man.”