This year, like every year, has had its highs and lows.  Each family will have had its individual share.  Bermuda as a whole has done so too.  Christmas and the year end are opportunities to reflect on them, and to look forward to the following year.  Some risk making New Year resolutions.  Some even manage to keep them.

We can all look back this year to events which have brought us together.

Some have been happy ones.  The Island Games was one, a product of enormous voluntary effort.  Our several thousand visitors all seemed to agree in praising the warm welcomes they had experienced from people on the Island.  And our Bermudian athletes came away with an impressive haul of medals.

Sporting achievements more generally united us, whether here or overseas.  Nahki Wells’ goal scoring or – more difficult for me – Bermuda’s cricket defeat of Scotland, have given us a shared pride or cause for celebration.

Sadly we have come together because of tragedy too.  The solidarity and generosity shown across the Island for the people of the Philippines was heart-warming and reached out to our Filipino community here in Bermuda too.

Within my own family there have been highlights:

• our grand-daughter learning to walk properly here in Bermuda in the summer; and

• one of our daughters getting engaged here.These will join other happy memories which will ensure that Bermuda will always be part of our family story.

And we are all conscious too of the families who have lost members over the past year, through whatever cause:

• the tragic and wholly unnecessary gang fights, mercifully claiming fewer lives than in some previous years, but still demanding efforts from everyone to heal and divert a portion of our youth;

• from road accidents;

• from illness and drugs;

• and also at the fulfilment of a complete life.

The heartache of family loss is great at the Christmas festival, with its focus on families.  Let us pray for strength for those who mourn amidst celebration.

Bermuda is good at celebrating.

Whether it is the 24th of May, with so many community organisations, and young and old, sharing their creativity, humour and their commitment to activities done together on the Island.  20,000 of us saw some of that again earlier this month, on the water, in the Christmas Boat Parade.

Or in Cup Match, where at least half the Island end up celebrating.

But as we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, and gather with friends and family, this year many of us are thinking about 2014 with some foreboding.  We all have a sense of impending tougher times ahead.  The need to do something serious about the financial deficit and the growing debt is agreed by all, even if the solutions are not.

There will be vigorous debate and, probably, strong arguments, which I hope can be kept within civilised bounds. 

But there will also be a need, as there is always, for individuals to give time, skill, love and money, to help others.  My wife, Margaret, and I are given a particular privilege in seeing quite how much of this voluntary work goes on.  Often the same people are involved in several different organisations.  We all owe them a great deal.  I hope that more people can consider getting involved with voluntary organisations – perhaps something which can be added to New Year Resolutions.

Christmas is a festival which challenges us all to consider the gifts we can bring.  Many Christians and non-Christians alike give gifts to friends and family.  But all of us can consider the gifts we can bring to our neighbours as caring and active members of the community.  In the midst of Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Jesus.  And in Bermuda we have much – even in relatively hard times – to be thankful for.

Bermuda faces difficult choices and difficult times.  But it has by world standards superb assets – cultural, economic, human and physical, even climatic, for the most part. 

There is a heavy responsibility on all of us to play a part to safeguard these.  And even while working out how best to cope with the challenges, I hope that at this Christmas we can all take a moment to give thanks for the good things we do have, whether family, friends, music - or just some of the best views in the world.

We wish you a peaceful and happy Christmas and God’s blessing for 2014.

George Fergusson

Governor