An xmas: Without glitz and glamour
It is surprising that of many past joys that are now being forgotten across the world especially in Nigeria, the popular Christian festival known as Christmas celebrated to mark the birth of Jesus is also gradually losing its taste.
Christmas used to be an event awaited eagerly by everybody, including even those who do not belong to the body of Christ. It was a period marked by various paraphernalia that add colours not only to celebrate the birth of the saviour of the world but also to mark the end of the year. Different brands of lighting and fireworks are felt on the roads, at street corners and at home. It was also a period of general display of charity towards the less privileged and those considered as special. Some hymns are peculiar to the time, and wherever one went in those days, those songs took on the form of national anthem. Besides, it was an auspicious time of good relaxation and visits to various places of interest. Generally speaking, it was a period of great happiness and jubilation.
But sadly, all these are gradually becoming history with all that are left being sweet memories by those lucky enough to be part of those years of bliss. Thank God that some relics in form of hackneyed music still exist to boost the individual nostalgia. Of course, there still remains what appears as a hangover of the lost past but glaringly however, the difference reaches to the skies! To start with, in those days, some hymn books were in use in both primary and secondary schools, and at that level, children and students learnt how to sing melodious songs. The training of voices therefore commenced at an early age, and this, combined with the imputs of the church, succeeded in building choristers of very high quality and standards so that by the time Christmas was celebrated, everywhere was agog with so many angelic voices from different churches. How then did we arrive at this time when Christmas is without the usual fanfare anyone will wonder. A lot of wrong policies, some by the government and some by even the body of Christ, is at the root of gradual erosion of values culminating eventually in the current lackluster Christmas season. To start with, the downturn of the nation’s economy has continued to have adverse effects on the citizens and only very few people can afford the luxury of celebration. Right now only few families still see the need to hang Christmas lights. But far from the issue of the economy, some policies by some former education administrators also contributed in no small measure to what has now become a common experience. For reasons best known to them, the issue of hymn books as part of the morning devotion in schools was downplayed, and even at a time, morning devotion was almost outlawed. Well, part of the reason could be that some people belonging to other faiths felt intimidated by the influence those hymns had on their children so much so that some of the children renounced the religion practised by their parents. And in truth, some people do not always know how to draw a boundary.
Some overzealous individuals are known to take liberty for licence by turning school compounds into arena of evangelism thereby persuading and encouraging learners to disown their own religion. Yet in the past, students from different religious backgrounds attended missionary schools that ran contrary to their faith without any fear of intimidation or molestation. But when schools suddenly started turning into conversion grounds, it was normal for some people to kick against such trend and that was therefore probably the reason why the baby was later thrown away with the bathwater. Another calamity that befell Christianity was the advent and proliferation of the so called pentecostal churches which relegated most of the noble practices of the orthodox churches including replacing the use of hymn books with carnal and meaningless choruses. To the pentecostal doctrine, nothing is wrong with having women as officiating ministers of churches and those same churches underrate the spiritual elements of the songs contained in the hymns. Or how would one explain the fact that those songs have existed for centuries and still retain their potency to convert people all on their own while sermons by any pastor, no matter how popular, has always gone with the winds especially after their demise? Most people especially church leaders do not seem to agree with the timeless dictum that all things shall perish and only music shall live. They harp more on their mostly parochial sermons and pay less attention to the hymns which speak directly to the human spirit.
And because of all the failure by church leaders to give the hymns their pride of place, Christianity itself has been watered down and does not seem to have any firm grips on today’s youth as it was in the past. Nowadays it’s difficult to differentiate Christians youth from others as many of them are as involved in antisocial activities as those who do not belong to the church. Therefore for all these reasons, Christmas is no longer what it used to be. For many years now, it has lost its shine completely though only those who had seen and tasted the past would easily recognize the fact that things are no longer the same. Even when nowadays Christmas carols are organized to fulfill all righteousness, the discordant voices of the choir are enough evidence of a strange gathering. Of course, there may be some few exceptions but that will be in churches where the use of the Christian hymn books has not been compromised. It’s doubtful if the popular good old days can be reenacted. The nations of the world in general and Nigeria in particular seem to have gone beyond the point of no return and maybe everyone should just accept whatever is presented every year as what is possible and realistic. But if Christmas must return to its original status, the crusade must start from the school’s. Let both Christian and Muslim hymn books be part of the morning devotion so that the training of voices of the youth can start at an early age and so that the inner message of the songs will start to make their positive impact on learners. It may be difficult to prove, or for anyone to accept but the fact remains that those years when morning devotion were conducted with hymn books witnessed better attitudes from children and students than what is witnessed now. Learners of these days are so unruly in their general comportments. Evidently there is a missing link that needs to be addressed.
Those songs speak to the human spirit and encourage Godly consciousness which is what Nigeria needs urgently now more than ever before. If we return to them, we have absolutely nothing to lose but ultimately much to gain.
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