By Chiedu Uche Okoye
Religion, it is said, is a way by which the people(s) of the world try to reach their gods or God. Man’s curiosity to know what lies beyond the physical plane and the matter of the hereafter gave rise to the emergence of religions. And almost every religion has spiritual laws and teachings to which practitioners of that religion adhere. But it is the teachings about love that formed the doctrinal bases of all religions. No religion on earth has teachings that explicitly encourage people to perpetrate evil deeds.
In our today’s world, such religions as Taoism, Shintoism, Confucianism, Hinduism, African Traditional Religion, Christianity, and others exist. And adherents of a religion observe and celebrate festivals, which are related to their religions as written in their holy books. In Nigeria, Islamic and christian festivals are celebrated, periodically. In other parts of the world, practitioners of Shintoism, Taoism , Judaism, and others celebrate their religious festivals as stated in their holy books.
However, other world religions pale in comparison to Christmas as to popularity. It is an indisputable fact that Christmas is the most widely celebrated religious festival in the world. Christians and non-Christians celebrate the Christmas festival. And during the Yuletide season, non-Christians send messages of goodwill to their friends , who profess the Christian faith.
But what is Christmas? Simply put, it means the commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Based on biblical teachings, virgin Mary was delivered of a baby, who was named Jesus. Because virgin Mary had no coital relationship with her husband, Joseph, before she became pregnant, Jesus Christ’s birth was called the immaculate conception. Joseph, who was contemplating putting away virgin Mary , was dissuaded from taking that course of action by an angel , who appeared to him in a dream. The nativity story of Jesus Christ belongs to the realm of the metaphysical and supernatural. During his earthly ministry on earth, which lasted for three years, Jesus Christ traversed the earth, teaching people the words of God. His teachings , which were revolutionary, sought to overturn the world’s moral order, then. And he performed such miracles as turning water to wine, bringing dead people back to life, healing the sick, calming tempestuous waters, and others. So, then, people marveled at the miraculous deeds, which he performed.
And it is important to note that Jesus Christ was part human and part divine. He is among the triune God; that is, God the Father, God the son, and God the holy spirit. He accepted to come down on earth and incarnate as a human being so as to become a ransom for our sins, which we inherited from our forebears, Adam and Eve. So, the birthday of such a great religious and spiritual personage as Jesus Christ is worth celebrating.Jesus Christ is our Messiah, Redeemer, and saviour. And over the years, people , who come from diverse racial backgrounds, have been joyously celebrating the birthday of Jesus Christ, who lived for a mere thirty-three years on earth.
Jesus Christ for whom we celebrate the Christmas symbolizes love. And much of his teachings dwells on the importance of love in human societies. Yet today, love is a scarce commodity among humans. Countless christian faithful , who observe the Christmas festival , are misanthropes. Instead of doing charitable work, they perpetrate evil deeds.If they do not perpetrate evil deeds, the earth will become an oasis of peace.
But peace is absent from our world.many Countries of the world are ravaged by conflicts, terrorist acts, and other atrocious deeds, which are committed by humans.They are proofs that humans do not possess the virtue of love. For example, people, who committed homicidal deeds, are not actuated by feelings of love. Politicians , who divert public money into their private bank accounts, do not possess the virtue of love, too. More so, a christian cleric, who is a paedophile, is destitute of love.So, are today’s Christians, who joyously celebrate the Christmas festival, true followers of Jesus Christ? The answer blows in the air.
Not surprisingly, preparatory to Christmas, people commit sundry crimes so as to acquire money with which they will buy things for the celebration of Christmas. It is during Christmas that some stupendously rich people buy new cars to increase the number of cars in their fleet of cars. Yet, their relatives, who live in their neck of wood, wallow in abject poverty. And some men, who have harem of wives, marry new wives during the Christmas period. Yet , the population of Nigeria has outpaced her economic growth, causing many people to become poor. But many people, who are very rich, do not look the way of the poor during the Christmas so as to help them live decently and comfortably.
Rather than lift their fellow country people out of the dungeon of extreme poverty, the rich people in our midst, who have misplaced priorities, use their wealth to satisfy their hedonistic and materialistic desires. So, do they have the virtue of love?
More so, over the years, our celebration of Christmas has metamorphosed for the worse . It has taken the hue of pagan orgies of sex and drink and bacchanalian parties. During past Christmas celebrations, some people died in fatal car accidents owing to drink-driving. And on past Christmas days, some vulnerable teenagers were put in the family way by lascivious bounders. Some people hold the belief that excessive drinking and sexual misbehaviour have characterized the Christmas celebration because it was a Greek pagan sun festival that was christianized into Christmas. But it is incredible and sad that the reason for our commemoration of the birthday of Jesus Christ is lost on the people.
A majority of the people in the Christendom has clean forgotten that Jesus Christ for whom we celebrate the Christmas symbolizes love. Because he bore a great deal of love for humankind, he accepted to die on the cross and became a ransom for our multiple sins. Now, if we give up our evil ways, accept His lordship over us , and exercise faith in the redemptive and salvific power of His death , we shall inherit the kingdom of heaven upon our death.
Now that we are in another cycle of the yuletide season, it behooves us to reflect on Christ’s timeless teachings on love, and imbibe them. In today’s world, not a few people are destitute of fellow-feeling. But Jesus Christ, who is our Messiah and Redeemer, admonished us to be our brother’s keeper.
I wish you a merry Christmas celebration and prosperous new year.
Okoye writes from Uruowulu-Obosi, Anambra State