By Helen Ovbiagele, Woman Editor
We’re in the festive season, a season of goodwill to our fellow human beings, to commemorate the birth of the Saviour of the entire world, whatever your religion, and whether you accept Jesus as the Christ or not.
It is a celebration which unites the entire world, even if you don’t acknowledge Him yet.
I know a non-Christian family, whose tradition has always been to celebrate Christmas the way most Christians do; putting out decorations, sending out cards and gifts, preparing special dishes for Christmas day, and being in a jolly mood.
After observing this family for several years, one day, I plucked up the courage to ask my age mate in that family why her family marks Christmas in such a big way when they were obviously not Christians.
“Well, it’s a tradition in the family, Helen. I believe it started with my paternal grandfather, and it spread down to us. I had asked our father that question many years ago as a child, because I couldn’t understand why we have to join Christians to celebrate, and in such a big way, when we’re of a different religion.
He told me that his father liked and enjoyed the feeling of peace and joy which Christmas evoked, and so he resolved that he and his descendants will always embrace those feelings and celebrate Christmas. Whatever grudge or malice grandpa had with anyone, he made sure he forgave the person, and would send him/her a present at Christmas, to show a spirit of forgiveness, and invite peace back into the relationship.
My dad and his siblings have adhered to this and introduced it into their own families. I don’t know how right this attitude is, but that’s the way it is with us.”
I’m sure there are men and women of God, who on reading this, would conclude that members of this family are on their way to becoming Christians, and they would welcome the opportunity to minister to them in order to have them converted. This would be a good idea, although there would be very little chance of success because they’re devoted to their own religion.
So, why get excited at Christmas? Is it because of the holiday that comes with it, or the general mood of celebration?
An elderly relation tried to explain this. “Many people all over the world like the Christmas season and the spirit of celebration and joyous mood, because God didn’t create mankind to be sorrowful,” he said. “We’re meant to be happy, peace-seeking and peace-loving people.
We’re meant to make our fellow human beings happy by the way we relate to them. That’s how God wants the world and its people. This is why it’s easy for even the non-Christians to relate to Christmas. I’m yet to come across a normal person who’s revolted by the Christmas season. It is when that God-induced feeling of Christmas joy is absent in us that strife of all sorts start.”
“But uncle, it’s impossible to be in a permanent Christmas mood,” observed the old man’s nephew. “Even those who are considered good Christians do start quarrels and even wars which destroy lives and property. I believe that other people mark the Christmas season with us simply because of the holiday it brings – a period to rest and enjoy some pleasant distractions.
Nobody, uncle, is born with peace in him or her. I don’t think God made the world that way. Our mood is affected by external factors.”
“That may be a scientific explanation, my boy, but you can’t say that you have the spirit of quarrel and war already in you when you were born, can you? If you accept God’s supremacy and holiness, you’d agree that He cannot send you into the world with evil in you. Instead, He sends you here with joy in you.
It’s because some people find evil attractive that they decide to embrace it. I’m not a man of God, but I can figure that out for myself, and do my best to retain the Christmas joy I was born with, and be at peace with my fellow mortals.”
It’s fine to celebrate Christmas with a joyous feeling, and a display of as much opulence as we can afford, but how many of us really have true joy as part of our character? The sort of joy which would make us tolerate and accept people we feel are different from us, in – tribe and ethnic group, religion, social status, etc.
It is the first too which have been tearing Nigeria apart for many years now, and threatening to split the country.
When we were under British rule, things were much better and the country was at peace most of the time. You could live among a different ethnic group than yours in a remote part of the country, and you would be safe.
People of different religions lived together in communities and even in the same compounds, and they practiced their respective religions unhindered, and there was peace. This is because the need to live in peace with our fellow human beings, is part and parcel of most major religions of the world. So, that elderly gentleman may be right when he said that God created us to be joyous and peaceful, not only at Christmas, but all the time.
This may be the reason why most religions preach peace, or are supposed to preach it. Unfortunately, this has not been successfully adhered to in many parts of the world.
In our country, Christians are persecuted where they are in the minority, even though some of them may be members of that ethnic group. Yet, where Christians are in the majority, other religions are allowed to be practised freely.
So, at which point did peace derail in this country, and who’s behind this instrument of disharmony? No-one can say for sure. Sometimes, accusing fingers are pointed at politicians who some people feel, could be instigating tribal and religious disharmony to promote their political career, or, to foment trouble when their rival is in power.
At other times, accusing fingers are pointed at those religious leaders who preach intolerance of other religions to their adherents.
Whatever the reason for this sad state of affairs, we have to use the peace and goodwill induced by the Christmas season to boot it out of our nation, and go back to the time when peace and unity truly reigned.
All the young people in Nigeria, irrespective of tribe or religion, should be at the forefront of ensuring that there’s peace and harmony in the country, by uniting together and refusing to be used against one another by selfish adults. If they do this, then they can have the peace and harmony to move the nation forward to great heights.
The future of this country is in their hands.