Joy to a troubled world at Christmas
The cast include Joseph, Mary, the shepherds and angels. Baby Jesus is the central focus of Christmas. Christmas comes to bless the earth, instill joy and peace to mankind. That was the heavenly message brought by the multitude of angels who appeared in heaven and overwhelmed the shepherds in the field.
The angel’s message was straight – “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” Luke 2:14. That was the message from heaven that marked the first Christmas. Any other issue, concern, expectation, desire or want that is not in tandem with this eternal message is not for Christmas.
Any desire not geared towards giving God glory and in turn promoting peace and goodwill towards men on earth contradicts the spirit and purpose of Christmas.
Given the turmoil around the world, many may lose faith in Christmas. The atrocities we see today are not new. Right from the days of Adam in the Garden of Eden, which God himself planted, humanity has witnessed blood. Cain committed the most atrocious murder by killing his brother Abel. The Holy Scriptures are full of stories of wars that involved mass massacres. The desperate wickedness of man, which manifest in all forms of atrocious acts, have existed many centuries before the birth of Jesus Christ.
The birth of Jesus took place at a time the Jewish nation was colonised by the Romans. Under that scenario, there was mass discontent against the colonial Roman powers. There were leftist agitators. The Zealots were a radical political movement that consistently incited people of Judea to rebel against the Roman authority and expel them from the Holy land by force of arms.
The Maccabees were another group of Jewish rebel army that took control of Judea from the colonial Greek Seleucid Empire. They established the Hasmonean dynasty by force and ruled from 164 to 63 BC. They reasserted the Jewish religion by forced conversion and expanded the boundaries of Judea by conquest. If the Zealots and the Maccabees were in today’s world, they would have been branded as “terrorists.” There has been no time since Adam that the world had had peace. The greater part of human history has been marked by indescribable turmoil, massacres, atrocities and bloodshed.
The order by Caesar Augustus (Luke 2:1) for a census of the entire world was not a friendly peaceful order. History has it that Augustus Caesar was the founder of the Roman Empire and its first Emperor. As a military dictator, whose preoccupation was the expansion of the Roman Empire, the census order was more of a political strategy to have accurate data of his subjects for purposes of taxation and military service. It was the same Roman authorities ruling the Jews at the time that the Zealots were fighting against. There was no peace in Palestine at the time.
That notwithstanding, the angels declared a message of joy and peace. Paul, the Jewish lawyer, trained under Gamaliel, member of the Sanhedrin, was explicit when he said, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? (Romans 8:35). Nothing, not even the terrorists’ bomb will separate us from the love of God which is in Christ.
The message of peace proclaimed by the angels presupposed that there was conflict. Peace is the only valuable that can be given in a turbulent situation. When Jesus said “Peace, be still” to the raging storm at sea, his disciples were faced with danger. In a state of war, the only thing the warring parties need is peace. Christ is the Prince of Peace. Notwithstanding the turmoil around the world, Christ remains Christ. Christ’s coming is not predicated on human circumstances rather human circumstances are predicated on Christ. Christ’s coming changed human calendar as we have it today.
On that note, it is right to ask what your expectations at Christmas are. Are your expectations geared towards mundane things or focused on the message of Christmas? Many people have varied expectations at Christmas – some good some bad. Some are expecting gifts from loved ones. Some want to go for exotic shopping spree. Some want a new car. Some want to complete their houses. The expectations are many and varied. For many, unless their expectations are met, there is no Christmas in their subconscious mind.
If your expectations fall short of the central theme of Christmas, which is joy, peace and goodwill, you should retract it and have the right spirit. Remember that Christmas has no end. As long as the earth remains with human beings, there will be Christmas celebration. In a matter of 12 months from now, there will be another Christmas. So, nobody should kill him or herself because of this year’s Christmas. Mellow down; take life easy. Thank God specially for being alive to celebrate another Christmas. That is the greatest gift.
One of the main features of Christmas is mass movement of people from one place to another. There are international travels across continents, regions and countries. Over and above that are the domestic travels within the country. In Nigeria, for instance, the traditional movement is from the west to the eastern states and then north to the southern states. There is this air of hurry, hurry, hurry! Many people are in a hurry to reach their destination, meet certain goals/targets before the year ends. The event of Christmas, which comes on December 25, just six days to the end of the year, accentuates this haste.
Somehow, there is a false feeling in some individuals of failure if set objectives were not met, as if there won’t be another chance. There is no Christmas that would mark the end of Christmas, opportunities, expectations and targets. After Christmas comes the New Year that opens a brand new world of opportunities. Those that lost their lives during Christmas “rush” don’t ever get another chance to celebrate another Christmas.
I am a bit hesitant to adduce “rush” to Christmas because there was nothing in the first Christmas that suggested “rush”, especially, for mundane things. The duo of Joseph and Mary, on their way to Bethlehem to get registered in a census ordered by Caesar Augustus travelled on a donkey that walked slowly.
The shepherds were in the field keeping night watch over their flock under a serene atmosphere when the multitude of angels appeared with the message of Christmas. It was only after the angels had departed back into heaven that the Bible said the shepherds “went with haste” to Bethlehem to confirm what the angels had said. That rush was geared towards meeting Baby Jesus in the manger and not for any material purpose. I have dwelt on the issue of rush at Christmas because it is the cause of many deaths on the roads in Nigeria during this season.
The high rate of road accidents that has become a nightmare in Nigeria worsens during Christmas. This is very sad. These accidents are happening because people are rushing to their destinations. When accident occurs plans are truncated. The truth is that there is no need rushing to do anything during this festive period. It is not mandatory that one must travel. It is better not to travel and stay alive for another Christmas than get into trouble.
It is important to note that the way Christmas is celebrated in Nigeria is different from the way it is celebrated in other climes. In the Western world, for instance, prices of goods are slashed apparently to make things affordable to all. Shops open Christmas sales where every imaginable item is sold at rock bottom price. That culture promotes and brings joy to millions at Christmas.
But here in Nigeria, the stakes are high. Once it is December 1st, the prices of every item in the market skyrocket beyond measure. Many businesses stock goods to be sold at Christmas, for that is when they make high profit.
The price hike is also extended to transport fares. With fuel scarcity across the country, travelers pay through their nose. Criminals have a field day during Christmas. This culture of profiteering during Christmas negates the spirit and purpose of the historic event. Rather than promote joy, millions, among our famished citizenry are made sad during Christmas. The joy is denied them by circumstances beyond their control.
While the joy is to the whole world, the peace is only for men and women who have goodwill towards others. The only way to be a partaker of this peace is to eschew bitterness, rancor and acrimony. The gift of Christmas, which is Christ, is love. His message is joy – the joy that surpasses understanding.
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