TELL THEM IT’S CHRISTMAS

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Christmas is a time to regain our laughter and sense of humour, writes Sonnie Ekwowusi

From where I am seated scribbling this I could hear what sounded like the sonorous voices of the angels, the Magi, the Shepherds, men and women of our time chanting away the Christmas carol, Joy to the world…. In one day it will Christmas: the celebration of the dies natalis of Jesus Christ the Saviour of the world and redeemer of mankind. When the appointed time came what poet William Butler Yeats dubbed the “uncontrollable mystery on the bestial floor” took place at a relatively obscure town of Bethlehem. Marvel at the magnanimity of a God who took flesh in the womb of Virgin Mary to be born among us. Emperors, presidents, ruler and kings of this world are born in the best hospitals, but, Jesus Christ, the King of kings chose to be born in a stable, a place where animals are kept. There is room for the rich of this world; there is room for those clothed in fine apparels; there is room for every traveller who has travelled far and wide. But there is no room in the inn for the Creator of the universe. Why no room for the Creator in his own creation? Why did Christ choose to be born poor?

Let’s not waste our energies attempting to unravel the unfathomable mysteries that unfolded at Christmas. All we know is that the circumstances surrounding the birth of Christ are a salutary lesson in humility. He allowed himself to experience suffering, want and deprivation culminating in his death on the Cross in order to redeem us. At the first Christmas Jesus was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger not on bed. Animals were the first to witness his birth. Prior to his public life, he spent 30 years in obscurity working as a carpenter with St. Joseph his foster father. And during the three years of his public life, he went about doing good. Being the Light, he brought succour and peace to men of goodwill. He catered for both the spiritual and material needs of people who encountered him. He condemned injustice. He fed the hungry. Seeing the widow of Naim who had lost her only son, he felt pity for her and restored her only son to life.

At Christmas we are invited to reproduce Christ’s life in our individual lives. Following the exemplary life of Jesus the Saviour, our political office holders should bring light to the dark land; hope to the hopeless; justice to the oppressed and integrity to the wasteland. This year the celebration of Christmas acquires a special tone owing to the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic that is increasingly ravaging the different parts of the world Nigeria inclusive. With the second COVID-19 lockdown, there will be serious economic hardship in many countries. Many families will further be impoverished. More businesses would be forced to shut down thus throwing a lot of people out of their legitimate jobs and means of livelihood. So we are in trouble.

However Pope Francis has appealed to all not to lose hope amid the difficulties resulting from the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. Pointing to the tall Christmas tree from his studio window overlooking St. Peter Square, Pope Francis said that such symbols of Christmas are signs of hope, especially in this coronavirus period. He urges the people to recall the true meaning of Christmas — the birth of Jesus — and lend a hand to the needy and the poor in society. He said that there is no pandemic or crisis that can extinguish hope and love for our neigbours. Considering the scandalizing poverty and human misery in Nigeria, a new humanitarian strategy must be adopted for promotion of human welfare especially in this COVID-19 period.

Apart from the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic, human blood is flowing everywhere in Nigeria at the moment. Nigeria’s security architecture has completely collapsed. At the moment Nigeria is facing the most dangerous existential threat probably since her independence. There is hardly any part of Nigeria unencumbered by Fulani herdsmen murderers, kidnappers, rapists, bandits, abductors, arsonists, night marauders, and hired assassins looking for someone to devour. The North-East is now tottering on the brink of final collapse. No single day passes without the slaughter of North Easterners as if they were animals. Seethed with anger over the unprecedented monumental slaughtering of Northerners, the northern elders are demanding for President Buhari’s resignation. This is understandable. Life has lost its meaning in Nigeria. We have become accustomed to hearing that our northern brothers and sisters are being killed every now and then that human life no longer means anything to us. This is sad. It is sadder upon remembering that the end to the killings in Nigeria is not in sight. Therefore President Buhari should be reminded perhaps for the umpteenth time that his primary constitutional responsibility is to protect lives and property of the citizenry. In fact the best Christmas gift Mr. President could give to Nigerians in this Christmas is to protect their lives and property. The government ought to govern in line with the aspirations of the people. When a government has failed to protect lives and property of the citizenry it is an indication that the government has woefully failed. That is the scenario playing itself out in Nigeria at the moment: It is obvious that the Buhari government is incapable of protecting lives and property of the citizenry.

Anyway, everything may be collapsing. The second wave of COVID-19 may be taking the highest human toll. Government may be irresponsible. Poverty may be grinding Nigeria to a complete halt. Your means of livelihood may be destroyed. Your bank account may be empty. Your health may be failing you. Your loved one or your sweet heart might have died. But nothing is gained by succumbing to melancholy and sadness. Hope is our greatest asset. We cease to live when we cease to hope. We cease to hope when we give in to despair. We give in to despair when we cease to smile. So, adorn your face with an inviting smile. It is true that we live in a sad world. It is true that many men and women of our time have stopped smiling. But good tiding has been brought to us. Jesus Christ, the Saviour of mankind, is born among us. So, rejoice. Wipe away the tears from your eyes. That thing that is worrying you will be remedied with the passage of time. If there is no room in the inn there is room in the stable. So, weep no more. Although we live in sad world, you must regain your laughter. Christmastime is a time to regain our laughter and sense of humour. With our laughter we can challenge the sad world to look at us and be hopeful.

This column proceeds on Christmas vacation today. Thanks for your company throughout the year 2020. No matter what happens under the sun do not lose hope.