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Bishop Berkley’s New Year Greeting for 2019
After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. (Luke2:21)
Many parts of the Church begin the civil year with the Feast of the Holy Name, that is, the naming of Jesus. It is the response to the covenantal agreement between the most High God and Abraham recorded in Genesis 17 and assumed under the Law of Moses in Lev. 12:3. This practice, circumcision and naming, became normative in Israelite communities as a sign of God’s everlasting covenant with Israel and as a mark of membership in the covenant community. Culturally, it was regarded as ‘a festive occasion, when families and friends came together to witness the naming of the child.’ [Church Hymnal Corp. , LFF 1980].
At the annunciation to Joseph, the angel explained that the child’s name would be Jesus, because he would “save his people from their sins.” In Hebrew, the word stands for Savior or Deliverer; or otherwise, ‘the Lord saves or helps.’ The procedure identifies the mission and purpose of the child. In all seasons and times, people deeply desired to be freed from the evils about them – whether they were political, social or spiritual. This is no less so in these days, and the Holy Name of Jesus offers us in faith, the true freedom that is ours through the anointed one from God.
We yearn for this freedom here in our nation. The challenges of the past year have been outlined – violent crime, escalating murder rate, institutional weakening, unease at the judiciary, the life changing closure of Petrotrin and ongoing adjustment measures, given our financial position and the state of the economy. Additionally, we agonize with the world about climate change and migrant issues. Yet we are a resilient people with great imagination, more than adequate creativity and style. We can change our situation, we can change our outlook and we can change our narrative. However, the challenge is that there is far too much selfishness; we need to work together for the common good. Someone once commented about too many interest groups seeking out their own interests among us.
So that in this New Year, we need to respond to the freedom given us through God’s favor by working and advocating for the wider community. What is good for one citizen is good for any other and the bigger picture has to take prominence. Each persons right must be backed by his/her fervent sense of responsibility and right action. Our mission and purpose in building and strengthening this nation must not be compromised. Meantime we must remember that God is waiting to deliver us; to save us from our sins. Let us resolve to respond together in a new beginning.
On behalf of the Anglican Church in the Diocese of Trinidad and Tobago, I extend blessed, inspiring and transformative New Year greetings to all my fellow citizens and those who share our hospitality. May our freedom in the God of our hearts be made manifest, and may God bless our nation richly as he frees us for his kingdom.
Happy New Year to all!
+ The Right Reverend Claude Berkley
Bishop of Trinidad and Tobago.