The challenge of Christmas 2016
It’s Christmas Day! Christians all over the world today celebrate the portentous event of the Incarnation, the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Saviour whose spectacular life of virtue, revolutionary teaching and sacrificial death on the Cross of Calvary, form the basis of the over two thousand year-old Christian religion. Even in a world overrun by secularism and materialism as well as other social forces impacting negatively on spirituality and morality, a world witnessing an inexorable decline in Christian values and Christian worship, the continued influence of Jesus Christ in a global context is nevertheless unmistakable.
Christmas has come to be associated with the festive spirit, reunions and the celebration of family life and friendship, with the exchange of greetings, visits and gifts. It is that time of the year when many are inspired to stretch out a hand of fellowship and solidarity in charity and thanksgiving to all who have survived the stresses and the strains of the passing year. The legend of St. Nicholas, the patron saint of all generous people played out in the form of Father Christmas or Santa Claus, has always excited the curiosity of children, while Orphanages, Old Peoples’ Homes and Prisons will often witness a boost in charity visits at this time.
For Nigerians, however, Christmas 2016 brings to a close a year of dashed hopes and broken dreams, of disappointments and failures, of recession and depression. The majority of our countrymen and women have been struggling to cope with a change in governance that has not brought them any relief, but even more pain, with their worsening economic fortunes, decaying social infrastructure and even more widespread social insecurity.
As the year draws to a close, many are counting their losses with a fair dose of stoicism and characteristic hope. The Boko Haram terrorist insurgency has yet to be fully routed, as suicide bombs continue to cause mayhem in several soft targets across the North East. The militancy in the Niger Delta is unabated, with the sporadic bombing of oil installations and pipelines. The incessant violent conflicts between Fulani herdsmen and local farmers have spread from the Middle Belt to farmlands and villages in the South-west, South-east and South-south. The IPOB secessionist agitations in the South East remain unyielding. The crisis in Southern Kaduna which has sent hundreds of people to their early graves and left thousands of others homeless continues to fester.
In the meantime, allegations of monumental corruption and mindless looting of the nation’s treasury continue to make the headlines. Nigeria’s social conundrum is exacerbated by the heightened cases of kidnappings and armed robbery in parts of the country, such that travelling home for Christmas for some is proving to be as daunting as weathering the siege of war. The continued success of big time kidnappers in the infamous kidnap-and-settle-syndrome is itself a clear manifestation of the failure of leadership and the gross ineptitude and/or incompetence of the security agencies whose primary duty it is to protect the innocent citizens against the criminally-minded in society.
In spite of the agony and the social chaos that have endured in the country however, the celebratory spirit of the Nigerian will not be put down. The incurable optimism in the Nigerian is what appears to have secured the peaceful quiet that prevails in many quarters today amid the subsisting trauma of life in these climes. Perhaps in the view of many, Christmas is too important a milestone in the Christian life cycle to be abandoned to the caprices and vagaries of a rudderless nation.
Christmas is indeed the proclamation of good news. It is a celebration of joy and of hope. The Christ whose birth is marked today has given the world a roadmap to abundant life, peace and prosperity. Taken seriously and applied in our individual and corporate lives, the values preached by Jesus Christ, namely, sacrificial love, justice, compassion, leadership by service, forgiveness, humility and purity of heart, will transform our society for the better. And so amid the festivities of today, Christians in Nigeria are once again challenged to live up to the core values of their religion, and impact positively on their socio-cultural and political environment. Christians are challenged to reject the prevailing cult of selfishness, to reject the widespread cult of pleasure, to reject the dominant cult of money, and to strive instead to live wholesome, meaningful and purposeful human lives, lives devoted to such higher values that include commitment to the advancement of the common good, not lives dominated by primitive greed, unmitigated pleasure, and the blind pursuit of ephemeral power and vain popularity.
Nigerian Christians who join the rest of the world to celebrate Christmas today should stand up and be counted on the side of righteousness, the righteousness that exalts a nation. Nigerian Christians must rise and face squarely and courageously the truth of our national existence – a jaundiced and blighted existence that sadly is often unaffected by our widespread religious practice. It is time for the Nigerian Christian to give loud witness to their Christian values for the benefit of the nation. The Guardian wishes our numerous readers and indeed all Nigerians a Merry Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous New Year ahead.
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