It is still right to say if we did not have Christmas, we would have had to invent it today. With all the strife conflict, bloodshed, hunger, suffering, abuse and injustice all around, the world needs Christmas, not every year but every day. By that I mean the world needs the spirit and essence of Christmas which is love, peace and harmony, every blessed hour and day. Christmas is the feast of Jesus Christ and of families. He is at the centre of the celebration and he came as a baby in a family.
Jesus Christ came into the world to destroy all the discomfort of humanity especially sin. The same thing all who wish to celebrate Christmas must do. Jesus came to save, to make people live with dignity. In life he fed the hungry, healed the sick taught the ignorant and comforted the afflicted. The way we are today Christmas cannot be truly celebrated if we do not do these same things. We cannot wish merry Christmas to hungry people nor can we celebrate and make merry without each of us personally helping people who are suffering. All of us can do this because “to overcome your troubles, help people out of theirs.” The joy of Christmas will surely sound hollow to people caught up in ongoing war and violence in Ukraine, Russia, Israel, Gaza, Sudan, Congo, Tudun Biri in Nigeria, and other parts of the world.
Jesus came to save, so Christmas indicts all political leaders who are supposed to be saving people from trouble and suffering. It speaks to the difference between statesmen and mere politicians who flood the countries of the world. A statesman is a politician who puts himself at the service of his nation, a politician, in contrast, is a statesman who puts the nation at his own service. Our world and our country need to be relieved of selfish politicians and be endowed with Christ-like statesmen, for God so loved the world that he gave His only son Jesus Christ that all who believe in Him may be saved.
So many now are rehearsing to celebrate Christ in Christmas carols. Well, no matter how beautiful our carols may be if we do nothing to rescue others from misery and suffering our Christmas and carols cannot honor Christ. When a friend sent me a video clip of “the greatest Christmas carols gathering” performed by hundreds of people and expert musicians my response was direct but simple: “This is awesome,” I said, “but it is neither the largest nor the best Christmas Carol gathering ever. There was already one unsurpassed and unsurpassable, Christmas carol gathering which took place at the manger in Bethlehem. The heavenly choir joined that of earthly creatures to sing one great carol, ‘Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth to people of goodwill’. No gathering can be greater than that because heaven and earth sang in love, harmony and peace. If our souls do not sing of true love and peace with the angels and hosts of heaven, our Christmas carols, be they accompanied by a billion trumpets, bugles and violins from a million musicians, can never be big enough for the King of Kings, the Alpha and Omega. He came to join earth to heaven and asks us to do the same in word and action.”
This year in Jerusalem all the Christian Churches have agreed that there will be no celebration of Christmas, only worship, particularly because of many children being killed in the war in Gaza. They made a manger made of stones and rubble and put the baby Jesus there as one of those children being massacred in the war. In truth, right before our eyes, the Holy Innocents are still being massacred like in Herod’s time and world leaders wring their hands playing mere politics. We sadly have made little headway in attaining the peace that Jesus came to bring.
Remember that father Christmas, glittering gifts and lavish parties are not the reason for the season as modern media would want us to believe. Jesus is the central character. He is the reason for the season. That is why Christmas bears his name. He came for peace, let us all work for peace. He brought God’s love, let us all spread God’s love. How well then have you prepared yourself, your family, your heart for him? Spare a thought and take action this Christmas for the poor, the sick and suffering, the oppressed, victims of violence, greed, racism, tribalism and so on. Look at the manger, see how peace and harmony still elude us even today and play your own part to create a better Christmas for all and sundry.
Bishop Emmanuel Ade Badejo, Bishop of Oyo Diocese
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Catholic Diocese of Oyo, Nigeria.