Posted on: 2016-12-07

What is going on? Radios are playing Christmas tunes and traders are stocking Christmas wares. Entertainers are staging Christmas celebrations for self or for others and working hard planning “Father Christmas” events and advertising gatherings. The rains have stopped in many places and the “harmattan” period is setting in. However in reality, not much positive planning is going on with many families. Few are thinking of changing their wardrobes or of buying gifts for themselves or their friends. Most, who normally reap huge benefits from such a season, complain of a dull atmosphere and patronage. All this amounts to one single thing, lack of the wherewithal to thrive. The economic downturn called recession, is biting hard and very few are spared of its bite. Many Nigerians never had it so bad and nothing the government can say as an excuse seems good enough. For many Nigerians, with the backlog of unpaid salaries and benefits, high cost of food and other commodities, Christmas might simply not going to be the same this year. Has Christmas been emptied? But what really is Christmas all about? It is about our faith that God loved the world and sent his only son as a fulfillment of his promise to save the world (Jn. 3:16). The message is simple. A long time ago the entire world fell into a big recession of sin, selfishness, Godlessness and greed, there occurred cosmic imbalance. Isaiah’s prophecy of the restoration of cosmic order spoken at that time, was not delivered to a perfect world but to one in turbulence. There were threats against Israel, the people of God and legal injustice and oppression of the poor was the order of the day. Then Isaiah spoke: “From the stump of Jesse a shoot will come forth; from his roots a branch will grow and bear fruit….Like a rod, his word will strike the oppressor, and the breath of his lips slay the wicked. Justice will be the girdle of his waist, truth the girdle of his loins….No one will harm or destroy over my holy mountain, for as water fills the sea the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord” (Is 11: 1-9). The message of the entire eleventh and twelfth chapters of Isaiah are precious to the promise and power of Christmas. Those promises will never lose validity, even in recession and Christians must refuse to let go of the Christmas dreams and promise. Back to Basics But advent is not just for dreaming and wishful thinking. It is a call that we all return to the conditions required to realize the promise. Isaiah’s prophecy denounced all the wrongdoings that could hinder the joy of Christmas and called for repentance. He lamented, “These people approach me in words: they honor me with lip service, while powers: “Woe to the rebellious children…they make plans which are not mine, they form alliances I did not inspire, and thus add sin upon sin” (IS 30:1). He then urged them to turn to the right source of power and salvation and look to the Holy one of Israel. “Seek Yahweh while he may be found; call to him while he is near. Let the wicked abandon his way, let him forsake his thoughts, let him turn to Yahweh for he will have mercy, for our God is generous in forgiving” (Is 55: 6-7). These were the paths recommended in Isaiah’s prophecy as antidote to the recession of the time. They remain valid for today as well (Is.40). Your salvation is at hand That precisely is the purpose of the advent period…joyful preparation and determined conversion. Advent is not for the idle. It is for those who are determined to work to dispose themselves to receive the savior. That is why the second reading of the second Sunday in Advent prayed “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to think in harmony with one another, in keeping with Christ Jesus that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the Lord and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 15:5-6). The advent period is a “call to arms” and Christianity is a soul and style religion. Believe and live, work and pray, practice what you preach are all useful catchphrases to define what our attitude should be at these tough times. Therefore even at Christmas with less salaries, less benefits, less money and less resources we must stay focused on our redemption. Shall we because of the tough times deny the joy and privilege of welcoming Christ as we ought to? Shall we be demoralized by the negative things all around us and fail to proclaim the coming of the savior? Shall we, thus emptied of the power of money and resources, fail to reach out to people who live in darkness, poverty and pain with the healing and soothing promise of a better world? Missionaries of Christmas The answer to all these is obviously “No”. We shall continue to be faithful and focused on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (Heb. 12:2). We shall remain Missionaries of Christmas”, because, the Lord himself said “I am with you till the end of time”. We rest confirmed in our resolve, knowing that the very first “missionaries of Christmas” the shepherds who proclaimed the first carols to the world had practically empty pockets, yet filled the entire world with their message. So we sing: “Oh Come, Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel”! He shall surely meet our needs. Merry Christmas to all by God’s grace and mercy!