At home in Deal, Dr Gabb, dressed in twinset and pearls, sits with Christmas tree in background.
At this time of year, few sights evoke more feelings of cheer and goodwill than the twinkling lights of a Christmas tree.
For myself, the tree behind me takes me back to the Christmas of 1993, when my wife and I had been married for nearly one year. It was our first Christmas together as a couple, and it was the first year when she cooked the traditional mushroom soup and fried carp of a Slovak Christmas feast.
We have enjoyed such feasts every year since then. At least, we have until this year, when our daughter’s aversion to fish of any kind has persuaded my wife to change the main part of the meal to chicken fried in breadcrumbs.
And this, I suppose, is what 2016 has been about. For so many years, we had been assured – and for so many years we may have assured ourselves – that the future of our country lay in continued membership of the European Union. Yet, when the people of our country were allowed to vote on this, last June, they chose, by a considerable margin, a return to national independence.
And, looking to America, we have seen a similar change in the menu. Very few, this time last year, could have expected that, despite the opposition of one or two persons in the media, in business, and in the political class, Mr Trump would become the next President. Yet this is just what he and the people of the United States have achieved.
But life is a continuous journey, in which change and surprise are never wholly absent.
I was forcefully struck by the truth of this observation earlier this year, when I paid a visit with my wife and daughter to Slovakia. We were greeted by many friends, both old and new. Wherever we went, we experienced a continual fount of goodwill to ourselves and the people of our country.
And it was the same when, in the September of this year, I paid a visit, without my wife and daughter, to our good friends in Turkey, Hans-Hermann Hoppe and Gulcin Imre. Both were naturally concerned by certain untoward events in the country. Even so, we contrived with many other friends, from all over the world, to make this an event filled with joy and with feelings of charity to all.
Gathering round the tree gives us a chance to think about the year ahead. I am looking forward to further changes, that will make the promise we have seen this year of a better world into a growing reality.
It also allows us to reflect on the year that has passed, as we think of those who are far away or no longer with us.
The custom of topping a tree also reminds us of the very first Christmas, when it was an angel who announced the coming of a better world. For Joseph and Mary, the circumstances of Jesus’s birth – in a stable – were far from ideal. But was it not Jesus who told us to render unto Caesar only those things that are Caesar’s?
Although it is not an easy message to follow, we shouldn’t be discouraged; rather, it inspires us to try harder: to be thankful for the people who bring love and happiness into our own lives, and to look for ways of spreading that love to others, whenever and wherever we can.
Christmas is a good time to be thankful for them, and for all that brings light to our lives.
I wish you a very happy Christmas.
Fade to refrain from Land of Hope and Glory