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December 23, 2023

Happy Christmas, By Francis Ewherido

Christmas: OMC felicitates with Christians

Christmas Day is two days away. Christmas is an annual festival when many Christians commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ. It is a season of celebration and festivities all right, but more importantly the commemoration of the birth of Christ is a time to reflect and focus on eternity.

Jesus came into the world to redeem humankind that we may not be condemned but have eternal life. What better time to contemplate eternal life than Christmas? Ordinarily, our major focus, thoughts, words and actions should be towards eternity. But we live in a relative world, so you cannot dictate to people as long as they are within legal bounds.

Love is another important aspect of Christmas. Jesus is love personified. Some people replicate this love during Christmas season by caring, feeding the hungry, loving and empathizing with the downtrodden and the rejects of the society; restoring hope, sharing food and gift items to the less privileged, orphanages, old people’s homes and hospitals. Not everyone has the financial capacity to do these because times are hard, but share joyto the society in whatever way you can. Sometimes spreading of joy costs nothing monetarily. Telling your neighbour “Merry Christmas” with a broad smile costs no money.

Jesus Christ showed us the greatest love of all: dying on the cross to bring salvation to humankind. We certainly do not need to do so anymore because his sacrifice is eternal, but we all can “die a little” for our fellow human beings by acts of kindness, charity and love. Sending a Christmas message is dying a little for your fellow human being because it costs money to buy airtime or data. Some people who used to share money, rice and other gift items might not be able to do so this year because it costs money.

Not to worry, by the special grace of God we shall see 2024 which will give you the opportunity to return to your old ways of engaging in charity during Christmas. Let us quickly distinguish charity from appreciating valued clients/friends during Christmas. If you send me a hamper or bag of rice at Christmas, I will appreciate it because I can then give it out to people who need it more or I might not need to buy rice for a long period if I keep it. That is appreciation not charity. Charity is giving without expecting any material thing in return. The receivers are incapable of reciprocating. They can only offer prayers, which is invaluable.

At this time of the year, the essence of the birth of Christ should be our main focus. All Christians are firm and uniform that Jesus Christ was born. This is the point of convergence. I do not even know why the date of Jesus’ birth should be an issue. Till date people whose date of birthis not documented simply pick a date and swear affidavits.

The date of birth of our former two-time head of state, President Olusegun Obasanjo was not documented, but he chose March 5, 1937. He and his son, Gbenga, confessed that they do not know the date President Obasanjo was born. Like Obasanjo, the early Christians simply chose a date since they did not know when Jesus was born.

He was born in Bethlehem of Judea as foretold in the Old Testament, period. Why people are still chasing shadows (the date of his birth) instead of sticking to substance (the essence of his birth) beats my imagination.To those saying Jesus was not born on December 25, do you know when exactly when Jesus was born? Were you there or were your forebears there? What is important to me is the commemoration, not the date Jesus was born.

Some argue that Christmas on December 25 started as a pagan festival. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”I do not join issues with people who make such arguments. What you call your children is what they answer. If I say December 25 is the date of the birth of Christ that is what it is. The Eastern Orthodox Christians chose January 7 to commemorate the birth.

There is no problem with that. No Christian is under obligation to commemorate the birth of Christ on December 25. You can choose any date that you like. What rankles me is when some people try to discredit December 25 as the date of the birth of Christ. That is religious intolerance, bigotry and infringement on other people’s constitutional right of freedom of religion and worship. I have no problem with when you decide to celebrate your birth of Christ’s birthday.

Those who are not religiously or personally inclined to celebrate the birth of Christ are also protected by the Nigerian Constitution. Just allow others to celebrate the birth of Christ this Christmas. Stop denigrating other denominations and also trying to think thatyou are the way, the truth and light to heaven. Heaven is a gift that God gives to those He chooses. It is not merited, although you have to work hard toward it and hope on the mercy of God. Practice your Christianity, based on your understanding of the bible, let others practice theirs.

December 25 is the day I have accepted to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ. I will celebrate that day the best way I know how to. In the early 70s as children, we were more focused on the celebration than the essence. We’ll visit friends and relatives in our Christmas Clothes and eat rice and chicken in each house. When leaving, they also gave us money (one pence or two pence. Three pence[utoro] was jackpot). I have grown, no more jumping around, but I will still eat my chicken and firewood-prepared jollof (conservationists, please pardon me this once). Jollof rice prepared with firewood tastes better jare. I will temporarily relax my strict on diet. Na God dey heal sef.

Finally, the problem some that people have with Christmas is that it has become commercialized. That is very true. It has become a multi-billion-dollar business, employing millions of people. Much of the spiritual essence has been lost in the process. I do not dispute that, but have we stopped travelling because of accidents?

The answer is no, so why do we want Christmas celebrations to be stopped because some people have turned it into a minting company and deviated from the spiritual essence of Christmas? Some people also complain that a lot of immoral acts go on during Christmas celebrations. That is also true, but Nigeria is a secular state.

Are you going to stop people from exercising their constitutional freedom of association because of a Christian celebration? I do not think so. Just do what is right on Christmas day and forget about whatever others are doing. I call it accommodation and religious tolerance.You do not have to accept or subscribe to they do. At the end of time, everyone will account for his or her actions. The final judgment is not collective.