This Particular Christmas
EDIFYING ELUCIDATIONS By Okey Ikechukwu
You can almost touch the fear and uncertainty in the air. This particular Christmas heralds much that is, as yet, unclear. No one is sure that the new year will make it any clearer. Being the last Christmas before the coming general elections, in 2023, it is also most unlike the previous ones we have all had since the commencement of this democratic venture in May 1999. There were still enough passable roads in Nigeria during the first Christmas Nigerians celebrated after the inauguration of democracy in 1999.
At that time, most people could travel without assured substantial damage to their vehicles. There were no bandits and kidnapers to worry about along the way. There was even passable electricity supply to be anticipated at the final destinations of those who travelled out of their regular stations. Some even had fledgling intimations of better days ahead, in the new year. Not this time around, with almost everyone huddled up and hobbled by so many concerns and uncertainties.
The roads have never been this bad. They have also never been this unsafe, so dreaded and with kidnappers are on the prowl. Back in 1999, Bandits had not taken over farmlands and whole local governments. There were no unknown gunmen, no alternate governments and no ungoverned spaces. Today, every geopolitical region is well represented in the new roll call of mischief makers and aspirants to the undoing of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. We say nothing of the value of the national currency, the state of the economy, the crisis in education, the damaged future of our youths, the monetization of politics and much more.
But let us defer all that for now, to the concluding part of this piece, and focus on the spiritual significance of the season before us. This is the time to remind ourselves of the true meaning of Christmas and strive to live up to the Message of Salvation that Jesus Christ brought to us some 2000 years ago. This means going into the true meaning, and purpose, of Christmas. It also means going back to this question, which was raised on this page on December 22, last year, namely: “Is it true that Christ came to this world to cleanse us of our spiritual defilement, so we could go to heaven? The other questions that were raised as we followed a hypothetical John and his uncle in a dialogue revolved around how Christmas would help cleanse us of spiritual defilement. Here we go!
John: Uncle, I would like you to explain, once again, what you meant when you told me that the message of Christ was intended to save us from further spiritual defilement.
Uncle: Once we act against the laws of God, we deviate from what is good for us as human souls who want to go to heaven. In fact, we can then be likened to a lamp whose light is dimmed because a veil has been cast over it.
John: Oh, I see!
Uncle: The human being can be described as defiled, or contaminated, spiritually when something that detracts from its original nature is associated with it.
John: It is written in the 11th verse of the 15thchapter of the book of Matthew: “It is not what goeth into the mouth that defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the man…” My question now is: How could it possibly be true that it is only what comes out of a man that can cause defilement?” The entire thing contradicts common sense and I do not know what to make of it.
Uncle: If a human being is just the physical body we see every day walking the streets, then whatever harmful, or unclean, substance we put into the body has defiled the complete human being. But someone who falls sick from drinking contaminated water has only suffered ‘physical’ defilement.
John: Hmmm, this is all sounding a bit peculiar; I must say.
Uncle: We cannot say that someone is sick because his clothes are unclean. We also cannot say that a driver is sick because his car, which is an instrument designed to carry him from one place to another, is not functioning properly.
John: I think I can see all that quite clearly.
Uncle: Only spiritual defilement can be described as true defilement of the real human being. So, to defile the body is not quite the same thing as to defile the man. Now, going back to the Mission of Christ, the priests, Sadducees and the Pharisees he met in Israel focused more on physical cleanliness and ignored the things that could lead us astray.
John: And what are those things, if I may ask?
Uncle: They include disobedience to the commandments of the Almighty. That is why He urged the children of Israel to focus on what really mattered and be saved from spiritual death.
John: I still don’t quite get it.
Uncle: It is what we think, what we say and what we do that could bring us good or bad karma. They are like seeds we sow into creation, with each seed producing its kind and returning it to the sower.
John: Sorry, Uncle, could you explain the sowing and reaping part again. I want to know what this has to do with all we are trying to say about what defiles a man, please.
Uncle: If you annoy someone and he gives you a slap, you have sown and reaped something unpleasant.
Uncle: If you drink a glass of poison, it will kill the cells of your body and the body will stop working, leading to physical death, right?
Uncle: But since the body is only a covering for your spirit here on earth, the way a shirt is a covering for your physical body, the death of the body is not the end of the real you, the soul.
John: Even from your earlier analogy, the destruction of a shirt does not mean that the person wearing it is destroyed.
Uncle: Precisely! The thoughts, words and actions of a human being that can create bad karma for him are things that “proceed out of him.” Sin undermines the spirit, hangs on it like an external, inferior or inappropriate attachment that is not original to its true nature. This is the defilement I mean that Christ came to save us from.
John: But how do I ensure that I do not reap what someone else has sown? There are no policemen in these things; and I don’t really understand how it works.
Uncle: Let me explain it with an example. If you make a hole in the ground and put one grain of corn, one bean seed and one grain of rice into this single hole and water them, they will all sprout and grow according to their kinds, will they not?
John: Of course, they will!
Uncle: Think of the three different seeds sown into in the same hole. It is in the same way that various seeds take only what they need from the same soil that good and bad volitions develop and bring their fruits to the originators.
John: You are saying that spiritual defilement cannot occur unless a man’s heart sends out evil thoughts, words and actions that then draws bad currents to him?
Uncle: That is an absolute miracle of a summary by you, John! If you go to a restaurant and request for a plate of food and it is given to you, surely, we can say that you asked for the food you got, right?
John: Of course!
Uncle: If what you ordered leads to you having a sour taste in your mouth, we can say that it was you who asked for what brought the sour taste into your mouth?
John: Well yes, we can say that.
Uncle: Just as nothing in a hotel kitchen will come to your table and enter your mouth, except you ask for it, so will no radiation in Creation approach you without you first giving cause for it.
John: You are saying, sir, that it is just our actions and decisions, rather than our circumstances, which determine our spiritual welfare?
Uncle: That is correct. That is also why the celebration of Christmas should really be a festival of thanksgiving to the Almighty for sending One who could show us the way to the right type of thoughts, words and actions.
John: But, Uncle, have you considered that poverty could drive people into doing all sorts of things? Surely hunger can make a man to steal or become an outright criminal! Can we not excuse such a person?
Uncle: It is not hunger that leads a man to steal, but an act of his will, a decision. It is not just the world around us that makes us to commit murder, but our rejection of the commandments of the Almighty and our decision to operate as renegades in Creation. It is not desperation that pushes people to deeds of madness, but the condition of the core of their spiritual being.
John: That sounds rather harsh, sir! Surely some excuse can be found for many wrong things that people do.
Uncle: That excuse is usually invented by people who are dishonest with themselves. Following the teachings of Christ is a strong help in that regard and an antidote to spiritual defilement. That is what we should celebrate this Christmas season: commitment to that antidote to spiritual defilement and eternal damnation that Christ brought.
John: I am most grateful for the explanations and your time, Uncle.
Uncle: You are most welcome, John.
And, to come back to “this particular Christmas”, we have much to think and worry about, going forward. The year 2023 is peeping over the wall – menacingly perhaps. Is it a year to look forward to with joy, or with trepidation? Is it a Christmas that has created a common bond of terror holding the citizenry together in a loud silence? Perhaps it is!