Today, the Christians all over the world and most movements related to this faith mark the birth of Jesus Christ. It is a time of all-out celebration. Significantly, for many people, Christmas is a time of sorrow. They don't have the extra money to buy presents for their children, family, and friends. Many are saddened at Christmastime when they think of their loved ones who will not be able to come home for various reasons. But beyond the customary pomp, gift-giving and merriment, a key dimension to the day is understanding its deeper meaning in the life of the adherents of the faith and humanity at large.
This year's Christmas coincides with some of the most trying moments for our country and much of the world. Not to be easily forgotten was the naval helicopter crash that claimed the lives of six, including the governor of Kaduna State, Patrick Yakowa and former National Security Adviser General Owoye Azazi. Then there was the Connecticut elementary school massacre of 20 children and six adults by a deranged gun-toting 20-year old boy. There were many other tragedies in the world this season.
While sub-zero cold weather is wiping out tens in Northern Europe, back home in Nigeria, terrorist blood-letting, kidnaps, road accidents, violent robberies have become almost impersonal statistics of a holy season. These scenarios make the deeper appreciation of the meaning of Christmas an important matter.
But the danger to this deeper appreciation is that Christmas is so familiar that most, sometimes, wonder whether anything fresh and true can be said about it. But certainly, a shift in perception can enable a meaningful access to this. Cut to the bone, the true meaning of Christmas is love. According to John 3:16-17: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." The true meaning of Christmas is the celebration of this incredible act of love.
Christmas should be about the bonds of family. As tied up in the memories of Christ's birth as it has been, Christmas should always mark a chance to let any petty arguments and clashes fade away in unity. It is a good time to mend relationships: broken relationships at the inter-personal, intra and inter-community, interfaith, inter-state and international levels. It should be a time for forgiveness and healing.
It's worth recalling that at birth, the only group of folks who recognised Jesus were shepherds, the humblest in society, and Magi, the wisest. In a milieu were humility and wisdom are in short supply, Christmas; the spirit of the season should then speak eloquently to the heart of man and persuade change.
We believe that true peace on earth and in Nigeria can never be forged by steel or bombs. It can be forged only by love. It is the humble baby Jesus in the manger, not Caesar in his chariot, who is the real prince of peace. This is the compelling message and essence of Christmas. Merry Christmas!