Christmas is the clearest reminder that throughout human history God has been concerned to enter into personal relationship with us: “On many occasions and in many ways God has spoken in times past to our fathers, and now, in this final stage where we are, He has spoken to us through His Son” (Hebs. 1:1-2). There is something special about this divine initiative; it is about God’s perseverance to reach us at all costs. The realization of this should fill us with wonder and confusion, but also with awesome gratitude; “O Lord our God, who is man that you are interested in him?” (Ps 8:2,5).

At the first Christmas God did not send prophets or angels to reveal His love. He came by Himself to demonstrate that love. Christmas is a clear testimony that God loves us too much to hold Himself up in Heaven. His love makes Him come down to be born and then to die for us on the cross. “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (Jn. 10:10). Jesus came for us to enjoy our life fully. Christmas loudly proclaims that God our Father wants us to enjoy life to the fullest trusting in Him that He is always there to take care of us.

Unfortunately, Christmas this year has found us in the throes of woes and distressing circumstances far beyond our human control. As Nigerians, in almost every part of this country, our hearts are heavy with the suffering we have experienced and seen this year alone, the many deaths as a result of terrorism, kidnapping and banditry, the depressing economic situation with inflation spiraling out of control, crushing further the ordinary man who has already been drained of joy, peace and hope, the nagging presence of Covid-19 which has killed and forced a disturbing distance between us our loved ones and indeed the rest of humanity.

The EndSARS protests characterized by violence against fellow countrymen whether civilians or security agents and the equally violent agitations for self-determination, which have come with the loss of lives and limbs, have left horrific scars in our collective psyche. All these make this year one that many Nigerians may not forget in a hurry. Nevertheless, Christmas proclaims, “Joy to the world the Lord has come”.

If you are feeling hopeless, then just for a moment, look at the baby Jesus in your crib; the Almighty Father has gifted Him to you and for you. Realize that God has come into your house, into your community and indeed into our situation! He has done so because He realizes how much we need Him, how much our troubled world and our badly bruised nation need Him. If we do not need Jesus, then Jesus would not have come to earth. Christmas assures us that when God cares about us so much; won’t He solve our problems no matter how long they might last? Even if in this season you feel alone, the truth is you are not really alone.

There can be no place where God is not present. His love is everywhere. That love is deeper than the deepest valley we may be in. Even if we are in the bottom of the pit right now, He still upholds us in His hand. He never leaves nor forsakes those who trust in Him (Ps. 94:14). At Christmas, God came to earth to give us life. Our present situations may be tough, but God announces that He is in control. Christmas speaks eloquently of God’s ability to take the worst of human situations and use them for good. It declares the truth that even in the darkest hour, the Holy One of Israel is infinitely compassionate, caring and trustworthy.

With His help we can make a new beginning as individuals, as family and as a nation.

The message of the angel on the first Christmas night should be deeply consoling this year: “Do not be afraid”, the angel said to the terrified shepherds. “Listen, I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared with the whole people” (Lk. 2:10). The angel’s message was direct and personal – “I bring you news of great joy”. At the end of a year in which anxiety, suffering and death have dominated our national space, let us joyfully make the words of the Prophet Isaiah our own “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; for those who lived in a land of deep shadow a light has shone” (Is. 9:2).

However, the joy of Christmas is given, as the angel said to the shepherds, to be shared with others – to be shared “with the whole people”. That announcement has passed on to us the obligation to spread the Good News of the angel and to bring the Christmas message to life. The most effective way to do that is to truly make our Christmas a celebration of compassion. This we can do when we choose to illuminate with our life the path of others with kindness, patience, joy and generosity; especially when we forgive and re-establish peace even when that makes us to suffer. Christmas is an invitation to give up selfishness, to think only of others and how to bring the greatest happiness to them.

The narrative of unbridled corruption, criminality such as deadly kidnapping, banditry and ritual killings are a grim reminder that selfishness has taken root in the hearts of many of our countrymen. Christmas beckons on us to, like the Magi return to our lives by a new route that avoids Herod, that selfish murderer who place his instincts for self-preservation above the lives of the innocent and the defenseless (Mt. 2:7-18). On account of Christmas, all our leaders like Joseph (Mt. 1:20; 2:13, 19, 22), husband of Mary and foster father of Jesus, are challenged to once again dream big for our country and to faithfully work hard to realize those dreams so as to find solutions to our teething problems and better the lives of some of the poorest people on earth.

Finally, for every disenchated Nigerian who is on the verge of giving up on this country; for anyone who is prepared to cut off his moorings and drift away to distant lands, Christmas challenges us to dare to look ahead and again embrace the hope for a better Nigeria. Simeon and Anna waited for almost their entire life time in order to see the deliverance Adonay had planned for His people (Lk. 2:22-38). The story of Christmas convinces us that if we sincerely hope for, pray and work for a better country, the Lord will make it happen for us too.

I pray that Christmas truly becomes for everyone Nigerian a joyful moment to hear the Good News once again, that God is with us. May we welcome him with hope and may all of us, our families, our friends, our communities and indeed our nation have a wonderful and blessed Christmas 2021.

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