Monday, December 22, 2008

Celebrating Christmas

WHAT is religion? To me, religion is a way by which people(s) try to reach their gods or God. There are certain mysteries which befuddle man. But, religions can answer these questions. Religions answer such questions that concern death and the life hereafter. In today's world, we have many different religions with their teachings. And, every religion has a founder. Islam was founded by Prophet Mohammed whereas Jesus Christ founded Christianity.

Adherents of any religion mark their religious festivals. The reason that Christians celebrate Christmas is Jesus Christ, a man who lived for a mere thirty-three years on earth, and performed such miracles as healing the sick, calming turbulent seas, and giving back life to the dead. But, some people doubt that Jesus Christ did exist. Incontrovertible findings have shown that Jesus was a historical person as opposed to the School of Thought that views him as a mythical figure. His birth was the Immaculate Conception since his parents had no coitus before he was conceived in Mary's womb. His birth dates back to more than two thousand years ago. Up till now, his followers (Christians) in Christendom still commemorate his birthday every December 25. But, was Jesus Christ, the reason for the Christmas, born on December 25?

There is controversy or disagreement over the day on which he was born. Some Bible scholars argue that Jesus was not born on December 25: However, it is said that a popular pagan festival was Christianized into Christmas. Since then, Christians have been celebrating the birth of Christ on every December 25. Whichever date was his actual birthday, many Christians are unaware of that, and they are not eager to split hairs over that anymore. But, Jesus' birthday is worth celebrating because of what he stands for. He is reputed to be the only man who died and came back to life again. And, Jesus symbolizes love. He died a painful death on the cross so that we (sinners) shall be saved. The New Testament says this of him: "Greater love has no one than He that lay down his life for his friends'

But, do today's Christians follow the precepts of Jesus? Jesus stands for love. But is it love that motivates some Christians to kill people for money? Some Christians kill people for ritual so as to become rich, some loot public treasury and others indulge in sundry criminal deeds in order to earn money with which to celebrate the Christmas. As soon as we enter the "ember" months, criminal activities increase. We kill people for rituals in order to become rich, we loot government treasuries, we rob people of their money and possessions, and we rig election to get to power - all these negate the teachings of Jesus Christ, and they are not acts of love.

Christmas is the time for vulgar and ostentatious display of our wealth. It is the time we gather our friends to open our new houses; we buy new cars for the celebration of Christmas and throw expensive parties during this period. And, the youths will wear costly new clothes, wear gaudy jewellries, and put on expensive designers' shoes. Christians of the Pentecostal stock are known for showy and flamboyant life styles. That is the reason their pastors preach the indispensability of wealth instead of centering their sermons on faithfulness, truthfulness, holiness and love. But, Christ whose birthday we celebrate, every December 25 is an exemplification of humility. Again, drinking revelries, sexual orgies, and violence characterise Christmas celebration. In past Christmas celebrations, drunk driving claimed the lives of some young men. They took to the wheels after drinking excessively which impaired their vision and judgment, and this led them to their untimely deaths. And, some months after the celebration of Christmas, the bellies of our young ladies will begin to bulge, which is a consequence of their sexual immoralities and escapades.

The vulgarization and commercialization of Christmas have undermined its spiritual essence. It is said that a pagan festival was converted to Christmas; so, has Christmas returned to its pristine and original pagan form? The Christmas period should be a time during which we should do a thorough re-appraisal of our lives in order to find out our deficiencies and short comings, and then make amends. In this Christmas period, we should re-dedicate ourselves to upholding the values and things which Christ promoted during his sojourn on earth. During this Christmas period, the rich should visit the poor and the needy and offer them financial assistance. Love is the summary of Christ's teachings. If we show love (Charity) to our fellow Christians and Muslims, Nigeria will become a better place to live in and ethno-religious violence will become a thing of the past. *Okoye lives in Uruowulu-Obosi, Anambra State.