TODAY is Christmas day, when the fulcrum of a defining episode in the emergence of Christianity, namely the birth of Jesus Christ, is commemorated and celebrated. Christians in Nigeria and their counterparts worldwide mark the Incarnation, the “Word of God taking flesh and becoming man,” in order to save humanity from sin and damnation.
In normal times, the celebratory mood of the festive season of Christmas is a joy to experience and behold. Nigerians would prepare assiduously towards Christmas and carve out their travel schedules to join their families and kindred for the festivities. The roadways, in whatever condition, would become chock-a-block with people anxious and sometimes desperate to reach their destinations in good time. Even the affluent, and others who can afford air travel, scramble for airline seats on scheduled flights.
But today’s times are anything but normal. In an environment where the nation is enduring multiple hardships, many individual Nigerians find themselves in precarious circumstances. Emerging social and economic developments have impelled a pensive mood towards today’s celebration. There is a general feeling of entrapment with the ongoing negative social indices and economic downturn, occasioned largely by an unprecedented slump in oil prices, and the consequences of a convoluted political transition, where the current administration is untangling earth-shattering grand corruption revelations.
These times are anything but normal, as the Christian faithful in many parts of the country, particularly in the North, conduct their worship in a near state of siege, with their security outfits primed on high alert. Precautionary measures, especially at Christmas time, have become necessary to preempt and frustrate terrorist attacks of places of worship. In particularly vulnerable areas, worship is conducted these days with considerable unease.
As we celebrate Christmas today, Nigerians must not forget their compatriots who are in the eye of the storm in the Northeast, and who are paying a high emotional and psychological price under the long-drawn strain of the Boko Haram insurgency. With the terror and violence now and again visited on them, citizens of all religious persuasions remain distressed and traumatized, as they are left with bereavement, abduction of loved ones, destruction of homes and the dislocation of lives. Many there are today, and indeed whole communities, who are deprived of the opportunity to profess and practise their faith, and thus of the joy of any celebration.
Hence, as we give thanks to God for surviving a turbulent year in one piece, we must spare a thought for all those who have suffered and are suffering one form of violence or the other – the violence of terrorist insurgency, the violence of unemployment, hunger and deprivation, the violence of armed robbery, kidnapping, rape, physical and mental abuse, the violence of communal conflicts, and the violence of the callous abdication of social responsibility or even outright abuse of trust by governing authorities at all levels. Yes, we must spare a thought for our country that has been repeatedly and systematically assailed with the brazen violence of economic sabotage by officials of state.
As we celebrate with an air of sobriety induced by the mood of the moment therefore, we must remember that in today’s world of the twisted logic of revisionist religion, even some who profess Christianity prefer to stick with the ‘holiday’ mode alone – without focusing on the core values that Christmas truly represents. Yet, to make any meaning of the object of our celebration of Christmas, Nigerians must remain firm in faith and resolute in hope. The prevailing challenging circumstances notwithstanding, we must keep dreaming of, and working towards a better tomorrow.
In the meantime we must resolve to reach out to one another, especially the afflicted and the most vulnerable among our countrymen and women. We must strive to give practical witness to the Christian virtues of love and forgiveness, mercy and compassion, and kindness and generosity. As the Christmas carols resounding in our airwaves and in the homes of many Nigerian Christians proclaim joy, peace and liberation to the world, let all the warring factions in our country sheathe their swords and embrace the peace that this season of Christmas represents. Let us all now work together for the unity of purpose and lasting peace which our country requires in order to achieve the socio-economic progress that until now has eluded us. The Guardian wishes all our readers a merry Christmas and a happy New Year in advance!