The message of the birth of the savior of the world was received by Mary as an impossibility. This is evident in Mary’s question to the bearer of the message, Gabriel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” Nine months down the line, the words of God through Gabriel became flesh and blood, and two thousand and seventeen years after His death, the world still celebrates His birth.
Today, 25th December, 2017, I write this memoir to see how far or closer I have come to God though my celebration of Christmas as I cannot really comprehend a fate as cruel as this – to be born into the world and killed (crucified) to save the world and reconcile it with God. What a wicked fate! In a clearer analogy and the point of a skeptic’s view, “What is the sense in saying that an animal raised and killed for being hard eared and a bad influence (the reasons for Jesus’ crucifixion by the Romans) give life to the other animals through its death?” A clear manifestation of why the message of our salvation is foolishness to the world.
I started feeling the light that John 1:9 says the birth of Christ brings to the world since I was eight months old, but I must say that the first fourteen times of the celebration of His birth in my life was focused, and to a large extent all about the merry, and nothing at all to do with the Christmas. Feasting and feasting and feasting and all feasting.
For fourteen years my Christmas begun on the 24th of December, where we, the kids, went to fetch fresh palm fronds to erect a pen in wait of Mary and Joseph (the parents of Jesus) to come pass the night and in the process deliver baby Jesus at dawn. Before erecting and decorating our pen with inflated balloons of different colors, shapes and sizes, our guns and knockouts and drums with which to announce the birth of Jesus to the world (our neighborhood) had been prepared and kept in the safes under our beds.
The dawn of 25th comes to mark the beginning of our merrymaking. In the morning, we drummed our Christmas drums in procession singing and dancing through the neighborhood to announce the birth of the King, Jesus, as though Mary and Joseph made the anticipated stopover to deliver Jesus in our pen. Those self-tasked to protect the pen from intruders, Herod and his soldiers, stood at vantage points firing shots from the guns we’d made, and the knockouts we’d bought from the provision shops around. Instead of waiting patiently for the wise men to be directed by the stars to show up in our pen, we paraded the neighborhood and collected the gifts. By mid-morning, we converged back at the pen with gifts (mainly money) for baby Jesus from the homes we visited with our singing and drumming. What happened to those gifts we collected on behalf of the parents of Jesus? Your guess is as good as mine.
On this fateful day, preparation of supper (dinner) in our various homes begun much more earlier than normal, and by afternoon it was a meal. We meet up again in the pen after dispersing to help chase the fowls that were used in the Christmas meal, but this time around to turn the pen into a dining hall. We brought our portions of the family meal to dine together as kids. In doing this the spirit of togetherness hovered over us for the rest of the year till the next Christmas. In our own small ways we buried all hatchets, grudges, quarrels and bad blood that had dwelt with us the previous year.
In the evening when the sun went down, and the moon hanged directly above us, and the starry heaven’s bright, we gathered together in a circle and took turns to share folk stories till the storyteller dozes off in the middle of his fast asleep audience. Our parents always knew the right time to come whisk us to bed without any rebellion, and that was when we all shared sleeping spaces on the bare sand in the pen.
This is how Christmas had been for the first fourteen years of my life, and a numerous others I shared childhood with. Church attendance was hardly a part of our Christmas celebration, and if it did, it happened after we had announced Jesus’ birth in the neighborhood and collected the gifts, which none found its way into the offertory bowls. We attended the church mainly in pomp and pageantry just to show off our new dresses and feel good for it.
At fifteen, everything changed completely because we were forced to grow wiser by the girls we were pursuing. They had become two years wiser than us and had realized that the way we celebrated Christmas was unrealistic and stupid of us kids. They made us, me especially, to go into the Bible to find out why Jesus was given to the world and dwell on it rather than the place He was born and the issues that came with it – the gifts from the wise men and all that.
Matthew chapter one verse twenty one taught me the main reason for the son of God to have come through the womb of a virgin, “… and he will save His people from their sins.” Once this truth was unveiled to me, I saw Christmas more of a solemn occasion than the merriment we made of it as kids. Ever since, Christmas has been for me a time to draw closer to God with my words and deeds. It is a time I call on God in the Spirit through His son to come to my aid in making my ways right with His.
It is with, no doubt, fond and nostalgic memories I write this, but not to dwell more on the fondness of it than the message I intend to preach. Jesus Christ graced the surface of this world, amongst other reasons, to:
- Save it (Matthew 1:21)
- Make peace between man and God (Col 1:20)
- Take away our infirmities (Mark 8:17)
- Bring light to all men in the world(John 1:9)
As we make merry, let’s not forget why Jesus Christ came to this world. On the cross he hanged, flanked by thieves and like a thief He died. Merry Christmas and may the peace of the Lord be with you forever.