Joy in tragic times

Dr. Nigel Taylor Barbados Boy Scouts Association

What does the joy of Christmas really amount to in the face of tragedies? Should we just go ahead and fake our joy, as if Christmas were a divine joke? But how can we continue with the old traditions – close family times, good food, and “joy to the world” – when Christmas so often is accompanied by tragedy, sorrow and disappointment?

In recent times, as a matter of fact, only a few days ago in the US 20 students each falling within the range of Cub Scouting age were killed by one, himself within the Venture Scout age. This period has to be not only one of the saddest times in the history of the United States of America but also one of the saddest times in the life of a parent. However, when we take the message of Christmas out of its true context we tend to misunderstand its meaning and, as a consequence, fail to grasp its true joy.

A glance at the situation in Bethlehem on that first Christmas morning makes it obvious that joy was birthed in the midst of great grief and distress. While the angels were rejoicing at the birth of Mary’s son, and announcing “peace on earth” to the shepherds, a paranoid ruler named Herod was preparing to slaughter every male infant less than two years of age in Bethlehem. While Mary was rejoicing, every mother in that city was weeping, fulfilling the word of the prophet Jeremiah, “Rachel is weeping for her children … because they are no more” (Jer. 31:15).

What was the significance of that first Christmas for these mourning women who had seen their little sons put to the sword? To find the answer to this question, one has to look at the original announcements of Christmas. In these words, taken from the opening verses of the ninth chapter of Isaiah’s prophecy, written 700 years before the birth of Christ, Isaiah declares that while the birth of the Christ-child would be an occasion for great joy and celebration, its original announcement was made in the context of grief and anguish.

We in Scouting know of our times of grief but we also know of our joys. The celebrations of the Centenary Year brought with it the joys of knowing that the Barbados Boy Scouts Association could have been a beacon to the many young males in this country. Many men have testified of the great times they would have experienced as Scouts in their youthful days.

When one looks at the evolution of Scouting worldwide and then bring it home to Barbados, it is clear that we have aligned our programme with that of the world and region but at the same time we have kept some distinct features in our Barbadian programme which we consider special and significant for our boys.

We have seen our boys proudly display the Bajan flag at many Jamborees and Cuborees and although I am keenly aware that many of the youth organizations have been having problems recruiting new members. We, in the Scout Association have been having the same challenges, but all of these challenges pale when we see the satisfaction on the faces of the Scouts as they take part in the Parade at the Garrison and then continue to proudly swing their arms en route down Bay Street to Bridgetown to the applause of the bystanders who have recognised the contribution Scouting is making on the national landscape.

The old Christmas song says, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year”, and for some this would ring true. Yet for many, Christmas is a season to survive. Depression, grief and loneliness are often exacerbated by shattered family circumstances and increased debt loads. Christmas calendars are overloaded, causing us to think in terms of “getting through the holidays”. We are left to wonder if the “postcard” Christmas exists anymore.

We say thanks to the many chief scouts, presidents, commissioners and other scouting personnel who have served us so faithfully during the year 2012. As we approach the end of the year, I trust that as the Scouting spirit rolls over into the community spirit and the Christmas spirit, many more volunteers would see the good that a few leaders are doing and decide to join them as the cultivate virtues in the lives of so many future leaders. Let us not be too busy so that we cannot take note that joy can come out of tragedy.

On the behalf of the chief commissioner and all the scouting personnel, we wish you a blessed Christmas and a New Year full of all the pleasant surprises we can ever imagine as we prepare to continue our service to our love — scouting.

Blessed Christmas and good hunting.

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