By Douglas Anele
AS usual, the hustle and bustle, push-me-I-push-you, characteristic of the Yuletide is gathering momentum as December 25 draws near.
Irrespective of the controversies surrounding the actual existence and date of birth of Jesus of Nazareth, an overwhelming number of Christians celebrate that date as His birthday; they also behave as if the pagan origin of Christmas is spiritually irrelevant, in the mistaken belief that it does not really matter whether, indeed, Jesus the Christ was not born on December 25.
The unchristian (or, if you prefer, pagan) source of Christmas is well-established. It is well-known that the alleged birthday of Jesus was adopted from the antiquated winter solstice festival of sol invictus, (god of the Unconquered Sun), and the birthday of Ausar or Osiris, the redeemer-god of ancient Egypt.
Now, since September last year, the global economy has suffered a meltdown as a result of greed and excessive consumerism.
Therefore, millions of Christians all over the world are likely to scale down the level of their celebrations this year in order to save costs. Majority of Nigerians are used to low-key Christmas celebrations anyway, as a result of the lingering economic problems of the country. Of course, the only people having the â€œbest of timesâ€ in â€œthe worst of timesâ€ are members of the ruling and business elite; the former shamelessly steal from the people they are supposed to serve while the latter employ crude Machiavellism to make too much profits.
In this essay, I argue that Christmas has become a useless social fad which should be allowed to die out because it has progressively degenerated into a period for indulging and celebrating the grossest attributes of the human species – greed, avarice, licentious living, debauchery and spiritual self-abnegation.
Because of the persistent pretence by Christians that Christmas celebration is fundamentally a spiritual event, let us begin our analysis from the spiritual perspective.
Remember, we have already drawn attention to the uncertainty surrounding the actual birthday of Jesus, and the unchristian origin of the celebration itself. Now, assuming that the birthday of Jesus is known for certain, why should it be celebrated by His followers, considering that there is no where in The Bible where Jesus celebrated His birthday, or enjoined His disciples to do the same when He was no longer around?
I am sure that nobody can justify the celebration by citing any explicit statement of Jesus in the scripture to that effect. Thus, biblically speaking, Christmas celebration is unnecessary. There is little that is spiritually elevating or ennobling about the way people all over the world celebrate it.
Whatever spiritual content people ascribe to the occasion, such as opportunity for sober reflection and critical self examination, visiting the less privileged, sharing of gifts and other acts of kindness, are usually overshadowed by the crude hedonism associated with yuletide. Certainly, not everybody is involved in the debasement of the essence of Christmas: few Christians, from my own observations, still make genuine efforts to benefit spiritually from the event.
Nevertheless the ambience of Christmas is always dominated by â€œmatter over spirit,â€ so to speak. It is evident that since the alleged spiritual significance of Christmas is fading away, the materialistic dimension is gaining ground. Consequently, the pertinent question at this point is: if Christmas is, fundamentally, a spiritual event, how almost everyone, including the Christian clergy, is carried away by the current or spirit of materialism which predominate during the festivities? Unless we want to deceive ourselves; the truth is that an overwhelming majority of Christians have forgotten the spiritual essence of Christmas, if there was any at all, and immersed themselves thoroughly in â€œthe activities of the flesh.â€
I have no problem with that, so long as we do not deceive ourselves and pretend that we are engaged in a spiritual celebration. After all, we are not merely â€œspiritâ€; we are â€œflesh and bloodâ€ also. As a corollary, all kinds of evils escalate during Christmas as people try desperately to make money in order to meet their own expectations and the expectations of their families, relatives, friends and loved ones.
This does not make sense at all, because most of these expectations are unreasonable. Many Christians, especially those that belong to the Pentecostal churches, engage in immoral activities to meet the ever-increasing financial burdens placed on them by the pastors or general overseers of their churches.
Actually, it is quite disappointing that otherwise intelligent men and women feel no qualms of conscience in handing already wealthy pastors Christmas gifts like cars, houses and so on worth millions of naira, when there are poverty-stricken people in their midst.
It is more disappointing, although not surprising, that these greedy â€œwolves in sheepâ€™s clothingâ€ shamelessly accept these gifts and give out tokens sometimes to the less-privileged to create the false impression that they really care about the poor and the needy.