By Francis Ewherido
The Christmas season is special though it means different things to different people. My interests as a growing little boy were to eat rice and chicken, wear new clothes and move around town. Now my interests are in the importance of the commemoration and lessons I can draw from it: One, God the Father’s unparalleled and unassailable selfless and unconditional love.
Two, God’s unfailing faithfulness and commitment, even in the face of man’s continued unfaithfulness. Three, Jesus’ obedience to His Father’s will,in spite of the pains of the cross,and of course leaving His heavenly comfort zone to the word.
My first memorable Christmas was in 1970, but it was memorable for the wrong reasons. Our Christmas clothes were given to a tailor who turned out to be unreliable, so that on Christmas day, while other children were already parading the streets of Ughelli, Delta State, we were still with the tailor waiting for our clothes to be ready. We did not get them until about 2pm and that was because my no nonsense elder brother, Tony piled unbearable pressure on him.
The next memorable Christmas was in 1976; not that I can still remember anything in particular that happened on that day beyond going to church, coming back and eating Christmas rice and chicken. It has become memorable because it was on that day that I took the surviving oldest photograph with my late (how my heart aches to use that word for him) brother, Senator Akporokena Pius Ewherido. The photograph has become a treasure and real souvenir.
Christmas 1986 is next, and it fell on a Friday. About four years before then, we had stopped eating meat on Fridays at home in deference to Christ who died on a Friday. It was also a form of penance and mortification of the flesh. On this Christmas, my mother cooked chicken stew,but told us to wait till Saturday before eating it.
(In fact, she would not have prepared it but did because of visitors. She did not want to impose her personal observances on others outside the family). We disagreed with her. Our argument was that if Christ had not been born he would not have died on a Friday; that Christ’s birth supersedes his death. With this we descended on the Christmas chicken to the displeasure of my mother.
Christmas of 2010 was my most memorable. For the third time I spent my Christmas in my village, Ewu-Urhobo, Delta State. I was not alone, for the first time all my seven siblings were around, also our spouses, our children;some of our cousins and a few other relatives stayed under one roof for Christmas. It was a full house; and an unbelievable scene, about 40 adults and children. Even my mother who hardly left her abode could not resist the momentous occasion; she joined us.
It was like when we were growing up. We spent time reliving the past, comparing notes and looking into the future. I spent a lot of the time sleeping. It was a welcome break from the hassles of Lagos,and nobody felt like leaving. We agreed to make it an annual gathering, but that was not possible in subsequent Christmas. But this year we thought it was inevitable because of my mother’s 80thbirthday and another family event.
That was before June 30 when Bros P (He was Senator Ewherido to the world, but simply Bros P to us) died. I do not know when we will be able to have this wonderful family reunion again, but we have to because Bros P will stir in his grave if we do not. But if and when we eventually do, it will never be the same.
Christmas comes with a message of peace, love, forgiveness, reconciliation and other co-travellers. It might be too much advising us to go and make peace with all mankind, so since a journey of a million miles starts with a step and charity begins at home, why don’t we use the opportunity of this Christmas to make peace with our spouses, children, siblings and other relatives we have issues with? Tough task? I know, but that is what this season is all about, not rice and chicken (only).
“Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy…(St. Francis of Assisi).
Finally, my heart goes out to all families who have lost loved ones or suffered one form of tragedy or the other especially this year.
“Christmas…must naturally pull a joyful blanket over all the tragedies, failures, doubts and all tribulations of the entire year” (Bishop Emmanuel Badejo). So shall it be for us all in Jesus name. Amen