Today marks the season of Christmas. As the word implies, it is a time of solemn festivities commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ. Though not specified in the Bible, the Holy Christian Writh, the birth of Christ is accepted generally in Christendom to be December 25. However, his miraculous birth was prophesied long ago by angels and the early prophets of God. He was to come as the Messiah of humanity held down by a corrupt world system over which Satan, the Devil, presides. Therefore, Christmas celebrates the birth of this Saviour who lends His name to a faith that originates in Him.
In Nigeria, hundreds of millions of the Christian faithful are marking Christ’s birth with worship services in churches, exchanges of gifts and vistis to hospitals and orphanages to comfort the sick and the less privileged. In deference to the solemn occasion, the Federal Government has declared today and Tuesday as a public holiday.. In a goodwill message, released on Saturday, President Muhammadu Buhari said: “The commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ is an important opportunity for us to show love to one another and encourage unity by spending quality time with our friends, families and the less-privileged.
“It is also an occasion to draw inspiration from the exemplary lifestyle and teachings of Jesus Christ, who constantly stood for what is right, true and honest…The Holy Book describes Christmas as a festival of peace, joy, healing, hope and fulfilment. It kindles great expectations in the heart, irrespective of the challenges of the moment.”
What are these “challenges of the moment”? Number one is mass unemployment. The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reported Friday that 30 million Nigerians have lost their jobs or have not held down a job at all. About half this number, was recorded between 2015 and June, this year. Naturally, this has led to a rise in crime such as kidnapping for ransom.. There is a marked desperation for survival which we see in the growing number of young Nigerian men and women “irregularly migrating” in search of “greener pastures”. President Buhari has urged “them to shun the allure of embarking on such perilous journeys.” Only jobs created at home can hold these desperadoes back.
The second challenge, according to Buhari, is the Boko Haram insurgency in the country’s northeast. Now in its 10th year, it has claimed hundreds of lives, displaced millions and destroyed the economy of the region. Recently, the government received an approval to spend another $1 billion dollars to retrain and equip troops fighting the insurgents. In his Christmas message, Buhari implored Nigerians “to support and pray for Nigerian soldiers who are engaged in the fight against insurgents and those engaged in bringing peace to the country.
“By the same token, and keeping with the spirit of the season, our gallant troops serving in the frontlines in the fight against insurgency; those wounded, lying in the hospital, as well as civilians who have suffered the brunt of evil and wicked elements these past years, deserve our fervent goodwill and sustained prayers. The personal fortitude of these individuals will continue to inspire us to victory as we turn the tide against the enemy and annihilate those who work against the unity of our nation.”
These difficult times, indeed, require an outpouring of love, comfort and support for one another. Of late, in this country, religious festivals have lost their spiritual flavour. Community spirit and fellowship that Christ taught and lived out have been replaced by individualism and commercialism. Intense competition for wealth and power has eroded the moral and spiritual fabric of the society. Today, Christmas is no more than a season to engage in unbriddled revelry and debauchery, drink driving – this often kills and maims. We make haste to ask for a return to the original spirit of Chritmas. The Church needs to do a soul-search to see where it has got it wrong, so much so that many people are leaving the “light of the Gospel of Christ” and returning to the “darkness” from which He called His followers.