Nigeria and the challenge of Christmas – Part 2
We have indeed witnessed worsening political, social, economic and especially security challenges. Yet let us jingle the bells and roll out the drums at Christmas. Let us celebrate the joy of the incarnation and savour the abundant life which Jesus of Nazareth brought to the world, if only in faith and hope. Though most of our countrymen and women lack material comfort and our society lacks the security and prosperity we desire, this Christmas should not go without major celebrations. If there is little to rejoice over on the material plane, let us move on to the spiritual level, the level of faith and hope, the hope of God’s imminent intervention, and declare a feast.
True, on this level, the level of prophetic imagination, we can celebrate the triumph of good over evil. On the spiritual level, we can celebrate the supremacy of light over darkness, and the ascendancy of resilient truth over pretentious falsehood. Let us go ahead and celebrate, for as men and women of faith we must appreciate the fact that all appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, the victory of Christ’s civilization of love over the prevailing logic of power and control, and violence and war, is as sure as daylight follows the night.
As we celebrate a Christmas of faith and hope therefore, let us make a renewed commitment to live by truth, the truth that sets one free. Let us make a renewed commitment to pursue religiously the Kingdom values of love, mercy, compassion, forgiveness, non-violence and peace, for which the Son of God became man, and for which he gave his life. I challenge you all who are believers in the gospel of Christ, to reject the prevailing cult of selfishness, the widespread cult of pleasure and the dominant cult of mammon. I challenge you all to strive today to live wholesome, meaningful and purposeful human lives, lives devoted to such higher values as the service of God and the advancement of the common good, not lives dominated by primitive greed, unmitigated pleasure, and the blind pursuit of ephemeral power and shallow popularity. I challenge all Nigerian Christians to stand up and be counted on the side of righteousness, the righteousness that exalts a nation. We must rise beyond mere ritualism and sloganeering in our religious practice. Yes we must rise beyond the very noisy but largely hollow enterprise that today dominates our national landscape in the name of Christianity, and face squarely and courageously the truth of our national existence – a jaundiced and blighted existence that is sadly unaffected by our widespread religious practice.
I challenge Nigerian Christians to address seriously the scandalous reality of widespread religiosity that co-exists side-by-side with rampant corruption, primitive greed, ethnic bigotry, mutual hatred and a predilection to violence and crime. We must work towards reversing this ugly situation if our religious enterprise is not to be made a laughing stuck by a critical and discerning public. I challenge Christians in positions of leadership at all levels, who so often succumb to the lure of power and material wealth, while putting their professed Christian beliefs on hold, to hear the words of Isaiah – that “the people that walked in darkness have seen a great light.” I challenge the Nigerian Christian elite to abandon the madding crowd and to return to the values, virtues, and principles that have been the distinguishing mark of authentic Christian disciples all through history. Yes, I challenge my fellow Christian countrymen and women, not to make their Christianity a matter of lip-service only, but to strive to respect the basic human dignity, decency and rights of all citizens, rights that are too often trampled upon, denied or curtailed at the whims and caprices of an uncaring political and economic elite.
I challenge those who hold in their hands the fortunes of the present and future generations of the Nigerian people, to look beyond the gains of the moment and think of the multitude of Nigerians whose chances of meaningful existence are often truncated and aborted by their thoughtless actions. I challenge the generality of Nigerians who are celebrating Christmas at this time to recognise and uphold the sanctity and inviolability of the human person, for Christmas is about how the Creator Himself loves human beings and accords them such dignity that He sent His only Son into the world to save them from the damnation that accompanies a life of sin and debauchery. Those who claim to have faith in the incarnation should demonstrate in all spheres of human interaction the civilization of love preached by Christ Jesus in his earthly ministry, that love which as men and women we have so often rejected to own peril. I challenge those of the younger generation, particularly the children of privileged Nigerians, who have been spared much of the travails of the overwhelming majority of Nigerian children, to prepare themselves towards turning around the fortunes of our suffering people. Yes, privileged Nigerian children should be constantly reminded of the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, that “from whom to whom much has been given, much is expected.”
Christians in general should rise up and show practical demonstration of the concept of sacrificial love as exemplified in the Incarnation and in the passion and death of Jesus Christ, such sacrificial love that can transform our society from a less just, less human, less secure and less peaceful and prosperous environment, to a more just, more human, more secure and more peaceful and prosperous environment. Recall that on the first Christmas night the angels sang: “Glory to God in the highest heavens, and peace to men and women of goodwill.” May all who claim belief in God at this time strive to be men and women of good will, so that we may enjoy the divine gift of peace proclaimed by the angels over two thousand years ago. Amen.
Rev. Fr. Ehusani is Executive Director, Lux Terra Leadership Foundation.