December 23, 2023

What are you doing for Christmas? By Muyiwa Adetiba

What are you doing for Christmas? By Muyiwa Adetiba

Bethlehem is not in any celebratory mood at the moment. Words have long been put out that this sleepy city which normally comes alive physically and spiritually around this periodof the year, will wear a somber mood this Christmas. The reason is obvious and understandable. The land of birth of Jesus whom the world celebrates every 25th of December has witnessed more deaths than births in recent times.

The usually joyous anniversary of the birth of the Prince of Peace has been mired in everything but peace generally around the worldand specifically – unfortunately – on the very grounds where Christ once lived and preached His message of peace and hope to the world.The reason for the season as we like to state, has been enveloped in death and suffering.

As a result of this, and the prevailing ‘sorrow, tears and blood’ to quote Fela, the throng of expectant pilgrims who long to visit the Holy places at Christmas, will be largely absent. The feet of the few faithful who dare to venture out will be silent. Those symbolic soul lifting songs that define Christmas will be muted because songs like ‘Joy To The World’ will seem very inappropriate during these sorrowful times.

It is ironic that death has found a home in parts of the Middle-East which are home to the two greatest religions in the world. The desecration of historically holy places by the savage deaths of the innocent saddens me as it should sadden everyone who believes in humanity. What message of faith is there for the families of those who were killed on their way to prayer grounds, or even inside churches and mosques?

What do you preach to a man who suddenly lost every member of his immediate family? Or a journalist who lost nineteen family members in what seems like a targeted attack? These were people who had been alive and full of hopes for the yuletide season barely two months ago. Nobody told them they would not see another Christmas.

The rest of the world is trying to look away from Gaza and Palestine as it grapples with the challenges of end-of-year festivities. What are you doing for Christmas? is a question that pops up so often around this time.It is however, a question that also highlights the loneliness and emptiness in the lives of many people. The kind of loneliness that has been masked by the frenetic day to day hustle of the year. It is expected that people will gravitate towards loved ones at this time of the year.

It is expected that people will use the occasion to bond. And for this reason, it is a period associated with mental stress. As people wind down to spend time with loved ones, many will find there is nowhere and no one to turn to. In a world of over six billion people, in a world in which everybody is born into a family tree, it is inconceivable that people can find themselves without anyone. Yet, it is more common than we realise and the season accentuates it.

But beyond this: beyond the klieg lights and the companionship that one seeks during this time, is a bigger question that lurks in the subconscious because we are often afraid to face up to it. How many of us enjoy true friendships? How many can name just five, or even three people who will have their backs through thick and thin in their so called busy, bustling world? I am still trying to grapple with my list. Perhaps this is the time to go back to that timeless advice which is‘to have a true friend, be a true friend’. Many are bereft of true friends; many are therefore, bereft of true happiness. 

Back home in Nigeria, there is very little to suggest we are a few days to Christmas. Some radio stations have been playing old carols which serve as a nostalgic reminder of better years and how far back the country has retrogressed. The churches are doing their best to liven up the occasion, but it’s been hard. The worshipers are going through the motion but their hearts, especially their pockets, are not in sync with the joyous season.

Two days to Christmas and there is very little in the air except the groans of people wondering how they would survive the times. Even the dry, crisp harmattan air took its time in coming. As the joke goes, the dryness of the lips has been replaced by the dryness of the pocket. Yet in all of these, the familiar foes of the yuletide season have surfaced. The scarcity of cash has been closely followed by the scarcity of fuel. Both have led to higher costs of food and transportation. So the average Nigerian is faced with the usual challenges without the usual resources. It is a despondent situation.

Yet it is precisely at times like this that the true reason for the season can be appreciated. The revelry, the fun, the gaiety and the spending spree have all but obscured the real reason Jesus was born. Christ had to come to the world to redeem the world of sin. The same world is wallowing in sin again prompting an inevitable second coming. But until then and in this season, we should all be introspective. We should ask ourselves in what ways we have individually contributed to bringing Nigeria to its knees.

We all want a better Nigeria, but many of us are making life a little more unbearable for other Nigerians by the demands we make of them whenever we have an edge however slight. Many of us see religious and tribal bigotry as despicable only when we are at the receiving end. Otherwise, it is okay when we confer undue advantages on our kinsmen. Above all, Christmas is a season of peace. There are two types of peace; outer peace and inner peace.

Both are linked in the sense that the chaos outside, the turmoil in the world,are caused by the absence of the peace within. Nigeria is in the chaotic place it is today because there is no inner peace. This absence of peace comes largely from our unwillingness to give others what we expect from them – hard work, honesty, integrity and fairness. Rather than bemoan our situation, let those who can, draw strength from it by looking to reconcile with self and seek inner peace. They could be amazed at what can come out on the other side. Sweet, they say, are the uses of adversity. Here is wishing all, an introspective Christmas.

P.S. Whoever blocked a major road (Kingsway Road Ikoyi) around closing hours (4pm) on a working day (Thursday before Christmas) on behalf of President Tinubu did no service to the President. Among those who got stuck in the avoidable traffic caused by the road block and subsequently joined in open derogatory remarks against the President, were people who canvased for his presidency. This action was obviously difficult for them to justify let alone defend. Especially given the mood in the country at this time.