Clerics advise on prudence, charity
As Nigerian Christians join others globally to celebrate Christmas, religious leaders have cautioned on the need to be moderate, especially in the face of current challenges in the country. They urge Christians to be peaceful and maintain peace. CHRIS IREKAMBA, NKECHI ONYEDIKA and AYOYINKA JEGEDE report.
• Christmas Is A Joyful Season And We Should Pursue Peace
• Nigerians Yearn For A Time You Can Press The Switch And There Is Electricity, Not Burning Fuel In Generators Or Living In Darkness. People Should No Longer Live In Darkness
‘Present Challenges Will Usher In Joy Of Christmas’
(Rev. Dr. Samson Olasupo A. Ayokunle, President, Christian Association of Nigeria)
I wish all Christians a merry Christmas. It is my prayer that your joy will be full and your desires met in the name of Jesus. I am aware that we are in a hard time. Rice is not available and where it is, it is not within the reach of common people because of its price.
I want every Nigerian to know that our present challenges will be the springboard for our full joy of Christmas. The first Christmas was also full of pains and sacrifices or challenges before the Saviour was born. God the Father had to part with His Son by sending Him to us for our redemption. The Saviour, our Lord Jesus Christ had to humble Himself by putting on the flesh, allowing Himself to be conceived by ordinary mortal, a virgin called Mary for nine months. He walked on the streets and experienced human limitations. For example, He became hungry like us, suffered pain and received insults from humans, just like us.
Furthermore, Mary herself bore the ridicule of a conception that she was chosen to carry and had to accept it because it was beyond her control. She must have received knocks from the ignorant many, who thought they knew more than her, but in truth didn’t understand the divine action in her life. She bore the pain of pregnancy for nine months.
We need to remember our hero, Joseph, who was first disappointed in Mary (his fiancée), when he saw her pregnant thinking she committed fornication. He was told to take this pregnant lady to himself and take care of her and the baby to be born, and he did so. That was not easy at all. Besides, he was told never to touch Mary who was now living with him, until she delivered the baby. How many men can withstand that temptation? What of the pain of taking the child and the baby to Egypt in order to escape from Herod’s sword? He provided food for the baby and the mother.
However, when the baby was delivered, joy came. The baby’s fame, which also gave the parents recognition in human history, cannot be compared to the pains they bore. Whatever challenges you are passing through now will not prevent your joy of Christmas. Whatever Nigerians are experiencing now will lead to the joy of the future. Psalm 39: 5 says, ‘weeping may endure till night, but joy comes in the morning.’
Joy will come your way this Christmas by God’s Hand of miracle. Nigerians and Nigeria will come out of the challenges to experience enduring joy and happiness in the name of Jesus.
‘It’s Not A Must To Travel At Christmas Or Celebrate’
(Rev. (Dr.) Felix Omobude, President of Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN)
Christmas to us is a continuous reminder that once upon a time, the heavens intervened in man’s affairs, when God sent His Son Jesus Christ, Who came in human flesh. He was born in Bethlehem as a seed for the world’s redemption. The message of the angel to humanity is peace and goodwill to all mankind. It’s a joyful season, and we should pursue peace. The fact that the Saviour was born in a manger, where goats and sheep are kept should humble our pride. We should have sober reflection and make necessary adjustments to our living.
It’s not a must to travel at Christmas, or celebrate. But the body needs some rest, and people take the opportunity of the holidays for family reunion. And don’t forget that at the birth of Christ, Joseph and Mary had gone to their native place for whatever reason, so some movements were involved.
Movements during Christmas or during festive periods should be properly planned. It should be responsible journeys, and you don’t have to go and borrow or go into debt to celebrate Christmas. People should celebrate the season according to their pockets.
The truth is that the average Nigerian is going through a lot to survive. I know that people will always complain, but we expect government to put things in place to make life more meaningful for the citizens. If you cast your mind back, there has never been a government that ruled in this country that people said everything was okay. People will always complain; they will always shift blames. There is no end to human clamouring, which is why democracy gives room for people to express themselves. Also, we must see beyond men’s faults, and all of us must have the fear of God and be ready to make our contributions in our own little way for a better society.
Those in leadership positions were voted in by the people, and though it is normal for people to expect them to perform, we must understand that you cannot make a mountain out of an anthill. There is the much government can do. We are all pointing at government, but government is all of us. So, we must act responsibly.
When you sweep refuse from your house into the gutter, and tomorrow everywhere is flooded, you can’t then start blaming government. We must all contribute our quota.
Of course, government has the responsibility for providing for the safety and security of the people, as well as ensures that peace reigns. The first and primary responsibility of every government is to ensure that citizens are safe and that there is freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom of movement. Government should provide basic necessities.
Nigerians are not asking for too much. What Nigerians are asking for are the basic necessities like water. We want good educational system that will benefit the masses. We want good health sector, where people should go to hospitals, find doctors and there will be medicine for the masses.
Nigerians want food, good roads and infrastructure. These are basic things of life. Nigerians yearn for a time, when you can press your switch and there is electricity, not burning fuel in generators or living in darkness. People should no longer live in darkness. Successive government, right form the time of the military to the time of former President Olusegun Obasanjo all promised to provide electricity. Even this present government has spent about five years and there has been no improvement in terms of electricity. The story is the same all over the country. We want to see development.
‘Christmas Is Not About Lavish Spending’
(Bishop Francis Wale Oke, President, Sword of the Spirit Ministry, Ibadan/presiding Bishop of Christ Life Church, Worldwide)
Christians should rejoice, and if there is anybody who has not received Jesus Christ as his/her Saviour, such a person should open his/her heart to Christ, so that he/she can receive salvation and eternal life. Nigerians should rejoice because our country’s future is bright. I know we are going through challenges in Nigeria, but we will get over it and the Lord will give us victory. Let us depend on God, Who brought joy to the world through Jesus Christ, and I believe our joy shall be full. He will help us and give us wisdom and direct us on how to solve our problems. I believe that 2020 will be a glorious year in Jesus Name.
Christmas is not about lavish spending and as such, we should cut our coat according to our cloth. If what you can afford is a fowl, it’s okay. People should celebrate the season based on what they have. They shouldn’t borrow or steal. Our children should come first with regard to spending, after which we can and spread hands to others around. We shouldn’t go into the New Year with debt.
‘It’s Not Necessary You Buy New Dress, Wash What You Have’
(Archbishop Joseph Imariabe Ojo, General Overseer/presiding Bishop of Calvary Kingdom Church Int’l, Lagos)
My Christmas message is a message of hope to the entire world, but specifically to Nigerians. The economic situation in the country may not be good, but there is hope. This year’s Christmas is providing us an avenue to reassess all that we’ve been through and hope for a better 2020. Therefore, nobody should lose hope, as better things are coming in Nigeria. I believe it. People must live within their means. It is expected that they should cut their coat according to their cloth. Don’t try to be like another person this Season. If you have rice eat it, if you have money to buy turkey, go ahead. Just go for what you can afford and rejoice that you are alive.
We are hopeful because better days are ahead. Not everybody can really celebrate and be merry, as he/she ought to, but that they are alive is a sign that God loves them. So, they should be hopeful and pray for the government. You don’t need to buy a new dress; just wash what you have and thank God that you’re alive to witness another Christmas. It’s not easy, but people should ensure that nobody takes their joy away. It’s unfortunate that only a few people have money, while the rest are poor. These rich people are in the Presidency, Senate and in different government houses. Before they know it, four years have come and gone, which is why they should be a blessing to Nigerians and not a curse.
‘People Are Suffering But They Should Be Hopeful In The Lord’
(Bishop Stephen Adegbite, Bishop of Methodist Church Nigeria, Ikeja)
Nigeria is in God’s hand and is the country He has created and Nigeria will never become an abandoned project. Jesus came this season to liberate us and transfer us back to God. He is the Prince of peace, and the peace He brought will remain with our country, our leaders, the people and the Church of God. Nigeria’s future is bright, and it’s going to be well with our nation by God’s grace. Nigerians should be hopeful and continue to pray. But let government be careful, and make policies that will positively affect the people, policies that will transform their lives for the better, and not inflict more pain on the injuries already sustained. The leaders must know that whatever position they are holding today is for a while, and there is nothing that is permanent, aside the Lord. They should do the right thing, so that Nigerians will have the dividend of democracy. They should not satisfy themselves alone and neglect the less privileged and the nation. They should think of the people’s welfare. God is the Owner of Nigeria and He will continue to uphold her, and it shall be well with us.
Nigerians and Christians should always give thanks, no matter the situation. We know a lot of people are suffering, but they should not be hopeless. Rather, they should be hopeful in the Lord because Christ is our sufficiency. We should celebrate Christmas moderately. Whatever you cannot afford, don’t go for it. Let us manage whatever we have, and God will definitely meet us at the point of our needs. Philippians 4:19 says, “He will provide for us according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” We know things are tough, but we are praying for our nation, and God will deliver us in Jesus name.
‘To Complete Our Joy, We Must Share In Love’
(His Grace, Most Rev. Alfred Adewale Martins, Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos)
Christmas comes every year, but it is not the same thing that is celebrated every year, in the sense that the story of Christmas brings new forms of actions every year. We hear the same story, but every year, it says different things to us and I think it is important that we remember that.
We should give thanks to God for that, but we should look beyond the merriment every year and look for the action message that God wants us to take; that our lives may be better and so that we may adopt the new life that God wants to give to us by the celebration. I believe the celebration of this year’s Christmas should remind us of the fact that life is precious. If God comes to us in the form of human, living as we do, except for sin, then it means human life is very important. So, we must take action to protect human life. We must shun all vices that damage or destroy lives.
There is also so much lack of respect for life. For example, murder, assault and the way people treat others without respect is so rampant in today’s world. And I think at this Christmas, God wants everyone to reexamine ourselves in this regard. More than ever, we now have people committing suicide for different reasons, but if people remember that their life is a gift of God, then they should be able to look beyond their difficulties and not take their own lives. I pray that needed hope will be given to us as a result of Christmas.
The significance of Christmas lies in the fact that God loves the world and does not want it to be destroyed, which was why He sent His Son. For this, we must be forever grateful. If God loves us so much, then we must show love to one another, as creatures of God. What we are celebrating signifies the love of God. We must not forget also those who do not have. We need to share what we have with them. So, this is the time for giving and sharing; a time for visiting homes of less privileged persons, such as motherless babies and the old peoples homes, among others.
‘Be Happy And Thank God For Sparing Your Life’
(Most Rev. Nicholas D. Okoh, Primate and Bishop of Abuja, Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion)
Wish Christians and Nigerians merry Christmas and happy New Year. The period should be celebrated with happiness and merriment. Whether you have or not, the fact that God has spared your life to see another Christmas means you should be happy and thank Him for everything.
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