Bishop to Christians: Be sensitive to other people’s needs even beyond Christmas
By Ekene Agbor, Osogbo
The Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Osogbo, Most Rev John Akin Oyejola has called on Christians to be sensitive to the needs of others by being charitable even beyond the Christmas season.
According to the bishop, Christmas is a celebration of God’s love adding that despite the challenges experienced this year, Nigerians should celebrate the joy of the birth of Christ.
This was contained in the Christmas message of the Bishop made available on Thursday.
Here is the full message:
Christmas: A Celebration of God’s Love
Most Rev. John Akin Oyejola
Emmanuel, God with us
Christmas comes once in a year as a wonderful testimony to the reality of the presence of God in the world, and an assurance of the love of God for the world, especially his unconditional love for us his undeserving sons and daughters. For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whoever believes in him may not perish but have everlasting life cf. (John 3: 16). God our creator is love, and His infinite mercy and love is unsurpassable. Prophet Isaiah asked: Can a woman forget her baby at the breast? Feel no pity for the child she has born? Even if these were to forget, I, Yahweh, shall not forget you” (Is. 49:15).
Despite Covid19 disruption of life in the year 2020, with the attendant sorrow and pain it caused many people this year, we still have the joy of celebrating the coming of the Messiah, comes to us to soothe us as humanity cries, calm our agitations, relieve us of our sorrows and offer us his divine healing for our bodies and souls. We acclaim with conviction, Emmanuel, God with us!
With the birth of Christ the love and mercy of God became incarnate. The Gospel of Matthew 1 : 18 – 23 gives a detailed account of how Jesus came to be born. The blessed virgin Mary who has been betrothed to Joseph a carpenter conceived of the Holy Spirit, and she gave birth to Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour. This fantastic news was broken by God Himself to humanity through Angel Gabriel: “Do not be afraid. Look, I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you, He is Christ the Lord” (Lk. 2:10-11).
Through the birth of Christ, God became man so that man can share in the divine nature of God. The Gospel of John 1: 1-3, 14 clearly bears testimony to this fact. “In the beginning was the word, the word was with God and the word was God… The word became flesh and dwelt among us.” St Paul in his letter to the Colossians 2:9 -10 added that in Jesus Christ lived the fullness of the God head in human form. With the birth of Christ, God Almighty “the blessed and only ruler of all, the king of kings and the Lord of Lords, who alone is immortal, whose home is in inaccessible light, whom no human being has seen or is able to see…” cf 1 Tm 6: 14 -16, removed the eternal cloak of secrecy and revealed himself to mankind in flesh in his only eternally begotten son, our Lord Jesus Christ. At Christmas we relive concretely the reality of God, with us.
Peace on earth!
Peace on earth will come to stay when we live Christmas daily and not just once a year. I enjoin all of us to look up in hope as we celebrate Christmas, with determination to step forward into a world of better things and harmony with God and humanity. The shepherds looked up when the angels sang; they heard the message of hope. They ran in the cold dark night to discover a new born babe wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger. They looked and saw the hope, the light of the world, in the peaceful face of a small baby in the manger.
The Endsars protests nationwide woke a sleeping nation to the reality of the fragile nature of peace according to worldly standards obtainable in the country presently. The incessant killings by the insurgents in northern part of the country and regular cases of kidnappings for ransom and other sundry crimes clearly show that we need the peace of Christ in this nation more than ever before. The yuletide is a challenge to all of us in Nigeria to allow the peace of the kingdom of Christ the prince of peace to reign in our nation. This Christmas let everyone look into the face of the child Jesus and find Him looking up welcoming us and calling us to look down, look out and look up to enable a better world to come and authentic peace in our country Nigeria.
Christmas reminds us that Christ is the light of the world, we celebrate that he is the light who brings us out of darkness. As prophet Isaiah says: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined” (Isaiah 9:2). The Gospel of John 1: 4- 5 says of Christ, he is the light that has come into the world which darkness cannot overcome. In our excitement and the hustle and bustle of preparations for Christmas, we should ask ourselves, how do we bring light and hope to our communities? How can we remove the cloak of darkness that envelopes our nation? Christ our light is the answer!
Christmas a Season of Joy
Christmas is the season of joy, as soon as the saviour was born, the shepherds saw his star and they proceeded to pay him homage. The Shepherds went to Bethlehem to visit the child Jesus cf. Lk 2: 15 – 20. Like the shepherds we have the responsibility to search for the Saviour and still like them we must be disposed to share our finding with others. Christmas is the time for us to make others happy. As we relive the message of Christmas, we should treasure the mystery of the incarnation. By so doing, we shall perceive a new meaning in our life. Christmas ought to bring each of us a new rebirth and renewal. We ought to experience a true peace and lasting joy.
Love the Giver More Than the Gift.
We must make Christmas an occasion to share our blessings with others not just our relatives and friends and those who can repay back our generosity but more importantly with the poor and the needy. Christmas among other purposes is about being good to one another. We celebrate Christmas truly when we offer the light of love to those who need it most. Whatever gift we exchange during the Holy season of Christ we must look beyond the gifts and love the giver or receiver more than the gifts.
In spite of the scarcity of basic necessities of life and poverty of the majority of our people, we must welcome the feast of Christmas with hope. This feast cannot be celebrated without joy in the hearts and smiles on the lips, I therefore enjoin all our priests in collaboration with the parishioners to be charitable, set up beautiful Cribs and Christmas trees in our churches and organise Christmas carols as signs that the economic recession has not taken away our joy in Christ.
In conclusion, Christmas is a celebration of the love of God for mankind, our response to the love of God should be unfettered and without reservation. Love cannot be measured, bought, or sold. For it to be valued at all, it must be given freely. The most precious gifts you can give your loved ones for Christmas are: loving words and deeds, compassion, forgiveness, appreciation, understanding and acceptance. We must keep Christmas beautiful without a thought of greed and we must be sensitive to the needs of others. While Nigerians offer perfunctory compliment to the Federal Government for removing #5.00 from the pump price of petrol recently, our interest as a nation must be total removal of greed, wasteful expenditure and corruption in whatever form. Christmas signifies tenderness for the past, courage for the present and hope for the future. In all these, the love God remains undiminished for us and God is always with us.
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