How do you celebrate Jesus, the Friend of the poor, when at Yuletide a great number of His friends fare even worse on His birthday than at other times?
In a Nigerian State, a crowd of excited citizens at a motor park clusters around a bus revving to take them to a holiday destination for Christmas and New Year celebrations. But a female bomber thinks otherwise. Feigning to be a passenger, she sneaks into their midst and detonates the lethal luggage on her body. She is blown into pieces. Scores of others suffer the same fate. Those who didn’t die instantly, will die slowly, maimed, scarred and glued to gory memories of anguish for life. Are they luckier than those who experience prompt dispatch to the great beyond?
Same scene elsewhere: at a busy central market, an explosion rocks shops and sheds, sparking an inferno that kills many of those shopping for Christmas and New Year. Health personnel race the wounded and the dead away in ambulances to medical centres and mortuaries. Global news agency, Reuters, tells the world “there are unknown numbers of casualties” in the tragedy.
Dateline: Geidam, Yobe, December 21, 2014, the Yuletide week. Several people are feared dead and many public buildings torched as suspected Boko Haram insurgents invade a community. It’s a blind typhoon-like attack, targeting no one but inflicting death and destruction and disaster on all.
Besides the dead and those dismembered by these assaults, we have a great army of grieving family folk, friends, loved ones, neighbours and a large population of internally displaced persons. Among them are those joining the ranks of orphans, widows and widowers.
But there are other hues of the Christmas blues not heaped on us by the militants of Boko Haram and other men and women angry with society. One is the irreverent conception that Christmas is the season to spend, outspend and revel, the period to show off expensive new apparel, the time to inflict further pain on the poor by hiking the cost of goods and services. Another is to hold parties that are veritable platforms for debauchery that mock the Man whose birth we claim we are celebrating.
The innocent poor and the underprivileged are also unfortunately lured into such gatherings to spend their meager resources on drinks, drugs and women, vices that sap them and leave them more alienated from the joy they seek during the season. They get drunk on wine the way the rich get drunk.
Are the so-called affluent who can afford to buy up the glittering tinsel of Christmas baggage spared its blues? No! They have a similar fate with mixed fortunes despite a fleeting stay on the laps of pleasure. At Christmas they set out on a journey armed with much trust in the power of their wealth to bring them joy. But alas, they don’t get it! True joy isn’t a product of bribery or immorality or in seasonal indulgency in hedonism. So they end up frustrated in not getting what they desired. Their money disappoints them and they wake from a drunken sleep unfulfilled. In other words, despite all the razzmatazz Christmas and New Year festival throws up, they don’t offer the satisfaction they promise. They box us with what has been described as “an unfinished business”.
According to the 19th Century American philosopher and psychologist, William James, “There is nothing so fatiguing as an uncompleted task.” All we do at Christmas is to spend and overeat and over-drink and get senselessly drunk and flaunt our wealth in the midst of poverty and in the face of those who do not have.
But we should shed the weight of wealth by sharing with the needy. If we don’t, Yuletide would always bring its grief in addition to the anguish unleashed on us by Boko Haram and other criminal gangs we have created by our unjust social system.
Let us also make it clear that while we make ourselves sad at Xmas through our excesses we are also causing pain to the Soul of our Lord Jesus Christ. We say we are honoring Him in remembering His advent to the world to save fallen man. This can’t be so. How can we adore or pay homage to a Holy Personage through the unholy acts we perpetrate at Xmas?
How do you celebrate Jesus, the Friend of the poor, when at Yuletide a great number of His friends fare even worse on His so-termed birthday than at other times? We give His loved ones crumbs at Yuletide. We make Him grieve when the poor, those He associates with, are denied the earth’s goodies because the rich, powerful and influential have cornered all the resources of the society.
This avaricious spirit is contrary to the purpose of God as revealed in the Bible: “…the profit (the wealth, the resources, the supplies, the riches) of the earth is for all: the king himself is served by the field.” (Ecclesiastes 5:9).
The Church in our day hasn’t helped matters. Its leaders aren’t forcefully and sincerely preaching and practising the message that would make the rich reduce their carnal carriage of wealth to balance the socio-economic equation.
Although the two classes are in the temple physically on worship days, their souls are poles apart, both scheming with two eyes opened at prayer time, to outwit each other.
Do we revere the Name of the Lord and what He stands for, with this attitude whether at Christmas at any other time? Of course not!
Rather, we crucify Him the second time as we claim to celebrate His Birth our wanton festivities.
Ojewale writes from Lagos