Nigeria and the challenge of Christmas
The year 2020 has been a very challenging year for the world and for our country in many respects: the Covid 19 Pandemic, which has sent hundreds of our countrymen and women to their early graves and forced a major lockdown on us that impacted very negatively on our socio-economic lives, our business enterprises, our religious activities, and our schools and colleges. We have witnessed a protracted ASUU General Strike, which for over nine months has paralysed our entire public university system, as well as the brutal crushing by agents of the state of peaceful protests against police brutality and bad governance that was organised and staged with unprecedented efficiency and coordination by youths across the country. We have witnessed heightened insecurity by way of the intractable Boko Haram insurgency and the widespread banditry and the kidnapping for ransom all over the place – the latest incident being the callous abduction of over three hundred students from the Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, Katsina State. And in the midst of all this, Nigerians have had to endure being superintended by a most incompetent, insensitive and unaccountable national government that many see as tending towards dictatorship and repression.
Yet, Christmas has come once again, and in spite of the prevailing circumstances I ask all believing Christians to put themselves in the mood with Christmas carols being staged here and there, even if only virtually, let us be determined to celebrate to the full the joy and the peace, the beauty and the glory, which the messengers of hope prophesied, and which we have been reading about in the course of the advent season – from Jeremiah to Isaiah and from Zephaniah to John the Baptist. Let us put ourselves in the mood of the same joy and peace which (in Luke 2:14) the angel of good tidings announced on the night of the Nativity to all men and women of good will, when he proclaimed, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favours.”
I recall some of God’s promises concerning the cosmic equilibrium that would happen when the Messiah is born and when he establishes his kingdom of integrity, justice and peace. The Lord says through Isaiah that “I will make rivers well up on barren heights and fountains in the midst of valleys. I will turn the wilderness into a lake, and dry ground into water spring. In the wilderness I will put cedar trees, acacias, myrtles, olives. In the desert I will plant juniper, plane tree and cypress side by side…” (Isaiah 41:18-19). Again Prophet Isaiah says of the new dispensation when the Messiah takes the throne: “The wolf lives with the lamb, the panther lies down with the kid, calf and lion cub feed together with a little boy to lead them. The cow and the bear make friends, their young lie down together. The lion eats straw like the ox. The infant plays over the cobra’s hole; into the viper’s lair the young child puts his hand. They do not hurt, no harm, on all my holy mountain, for the country is filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” (Isaiah 11:6-9). And Prophet Zephaniah describes the jubilation that would accompany the Messianic times in the following words: “Shout for joy, daughter of Zion, Israel, shout aloud! Rejoice, exult with all your heart, daughter of Jerusalem.
The Lord has repealed your sentence; he has driven your enemies away… The Lord your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior. He will exult with joy over you, he will renew you by his love; he will dance with shouts of joy for you as on a day of festival.” (Zephaniah 3:14-18).
Inspired by the above passages which we constantly hear proclaimed in our Churches during the season of advent, I call upon Nigerian Christian brothers and sisters to be determined to make the most of the holy season of Christmas this year. Let us allow God’s word of promise to take flesh and become effectual in us and in our immediate environment, in spite of the prevailing circumstances of our country and the worsening fortunes of our people. Let us be determined to celebrate in faith and hope, the joy and peace, the beauty and glory which are the endowments of the Infant King, even as the entire framework for economic, political, social, emotional and psychological wellbeing in our society has become degenerate, causing enormous distress for the multitude of people. Let us be determined to embrace the peace of the Infant King even as terrorist insurgency and widespread criminal banditry continue to harass the population of the North-East, the North West, and the North Central, and as our security infrastructure appears overwhelmed by the callous and cruel exploits of the insurgents.
Let the Christmas bells ring, and let our carols be staged with passion, even though the ongoing economic recession has continued to humiliate the majority of the Nigerian people. Let us be determined nevertheless to celebrate Christmas this year with gusto and make the protracted midnight of our national exigencies a providential milieu for the hatching of new dreams, and for the fostering of fresh visions of a land of justice, good governance, unity, peace, security and prosperity.
Let us be determined to celebrate a Christmas of joy and peace, even as we have watched with utter consternation the scandal of Nigerian fathers stealing food off the hands of their children, and the irrationality of Nigerian mothers mortgaging tomorrow for the fleeting pleasures of today. Let us be determined to join the chorus of heaven to sing “Glory to God in the highest” and “Peace to men and women who are God’s friends,” even as those who should take responsibility for the future generation are propagating decadent social values at every level and in every sector and instituting a legacy of shame in the psyche of the young people. Let us light the torch of rejuvenation and liberation, and celebrate, even if only in faith and hope, the wholesome and vibrant youth population which the young Jesus of Nazareth inspires.
Rev. Fr. George Ehusani is Executive Director, Lux Terra Leadership Foundation.