Articles : THE BIRTH OF THE MESSIAH: GOOD NEWS FOR THE WORLDPosted on: 2016-12-24
Source: Rev. Fr. John Toye Olayiwola
It is Christmas
It is Christmas again! Yes, it is the season of Christmas! It is that beautiful moment which means different things for different people. We can begin to imagine what it means for many of our tailors who are waiting for our attires! We can think of what it means for transporters who are waiting for passengers at the motor parks! We can also imagine what it means for market men and women! For many of these and those who fall into a similar category like them, the time of Christmas is the moment of profiteering. It is a time of exploitation! What of some of our political leaders? It is a time of embezzlement. At least, they need to go on Christmas recess with a heavy pocket. When we were growing up, the much we knew about Christmas was getting new attires and eating rice. I am sure the situation has not changed with many of our children. Recession or no recession, children are looking forward to getting new clothes and shoes. May God provide for all parents. Absolutely, nothing is wrong in changing our wardrobes at Christmas, if we can. However, we should not take this to be the real meaning of Christmas. So, what then is the meaning of Christmas? It is the Good News!
The Good News
For many of us who do listen to news, we would have noticed that the news media are always feeding us with the news of accidents which claimed many lives, of wars, of corruption, abduction and many more. Sometimes, one does even feel like listening to news anymore, for it is as if there are no happy events to be reported. Yes, that is the much the world can give! It is not new. Even before the birth of Christ, the world was full of bad news. People were in agony and pain. There were recessions of different kinds. Thanks to the birth of Christ that changed the whole situation.
While the world offers bad news, God is always offering good news. This good news was first announced in Gen 3: 15 when God promised the birth of the son who would crush the head of the ancient serpent, Satan. All the prophets affirmed this in their oracles and holy men and women like Simeon and Anna longed for its fulfilment and rejoiced to see it fulfilled (see Lk 2: 25-38).
When the appointed time came, God decided to do the unimagined. He chose to come and live among us in our human form. This happened in the birth of Christ, the Word that became a human being (Jn 1:14). As soon as Christ was born, the good news was announced clearly by the angel. As we read in Lk 2:10, the angel said to the shepherds “... I brought you the good news that will benefit the whole world...” Therefore, Christmas is our good news!
The Content of the Good News
Then, we must ask: what is this good news about? According to the Canticle of Zachariah in Lk 1: 68-79, the good news contains much more than we can think of or fathom. Let us reflect briefly on those that directly address our present situation.
Long time before the Christ was born, the prophet Isaiah already spoke of him as the bringer of peace. The prophet puts the peace to be brought by Christ at the superlative, when he makes use of the seemingly impossible combinations of two enemies becoming friends and living together without any harm or injury (read Isa 11: 6-9). Little wonder as soon as Christ was born, the first carol sung by the angels was: “glory be to God in the highest heaven and peace on earth to his people in whom he delights” (see Lk 2: 13). Christ fulfilled his title as the Prince of peace by his words and works which are constantly against any action that can promote hatred and lead to conflict or war. As a man of peace, he teaches tolerance and forgiveness. As a man of peace, he pardoned his friend who sold him, his allies who abandoned him, his compatriots who rejected him and his enemies who killed him. Truly, as Zachariah says in Lk 2: 79, Christmas is our guide to the way of peace.
In the era before the birth of Christ, there were many cases of slavery and enslavement. (Our age is no way different)! Hence, people were waiting for the Messiah who would bring them liberation; and indeed, Christ fulfilled this hope but differently. While the people expected freedom from the human oppressors, Christ brought the highest freedom from the worst oppressor, sin. As we read in Jn 8: 34, “anyone who sins is a slave.” Therefore, true to his name as written in Mt 1: 21 and as he proclaims in his “manifesto” (Lk 4: 18), Christ offers liberation from sin to the world. Put simply, Christmas is our forgiveness of sins!
Until the birth of Christ, the world flew on the wing of wickedness and callousness. It was an eye for an eye; a tooth for a tooth. Nobody was willing to show mercy to anyone. However, with the birth of Christ, which is the highest expression of the mercy of God to us, the world is taught the principle of mercy which invites us to do good even to those who wish us bad.
It All Begins with Me
Thinking back into the situation of the world before Christ was born and looking into the situation of our world today where actions of darkness: oppression, corruption, injustice, hatred, killing, loss of respect for human life, matrimonial quagmires, economic recessions, social inadequacies, moral bankruptcy, political agitation, religious exploitation, military intimidation and many more have become the order of the day, we need to ask a serious question as to what extent the Christ-event has affected the world. The answer is near. The realisation of the effect of the good news begins with each of us. If the world will know peace, each one of us must learn to be a man or a woman of peace. The first step to be at peace with others is to be at peace with oneself. There are many wars and conflicts going on in each of us which often lead to outburst of wars. Each one must have peace of soul before there can be peace in the world. We can attain this by a total abandonment of ourselves to the will of God.
Similarly, as a people of peace, we must learn to keep away from words and works that are anti-peace. When the prophet Isaiah was making use of those imageries of a calf living with a wolf, a sheep with a lion and a little child with a snake, he was speaking of tolerance as a necessary condition for peace. Without tolerance, there can be no peace. The right place to start rehearsing this is our homes. It is not enough for parents to teach their children the value of peace, they must live this by embracing the principle of tolerance. In a moment when the husband is angry, the wife must tolerate him and vice versa. Parents must bear with their children and children must do the same with their parents, bearing in mind the words of Pope Francis in Amoris Laetatiae that there is no perfect family anywhere. The watchword is tolerance.
The virtue that is close to tolerance is forgiveness. The world teaches revenge and vengeance but the good news of Christ contradicts this. It is impossible for us to live together without offending each other. For the world to get going in peace, each of us must fall in love with forgiveness. Difficult as it, it is the path to a happy and peaceful existence.
Do not Forget this
The crown of everything that begins with each of us is love. This love we are talking about is not just in words but also in works. It is true that the situation of the world makes each of us to claim to be poor but let us not forget that some are poorer. Our Christmas loses meaning if after its celebration, our waste bins are loaded with foods whereas the man or woman next to our door has nothing to eat. The good news of Christmas is learning to live for others just as Christ was born to die for us. May the world come to know the good news of Christ and embrace it as the path to true and lasting peace.
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