Tuesday, December 26, 2023
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s Christmas was fast approaching, a middle-aged man walked into my office with tears running down his withered cheeks. I was moved with pity. Instantly I stood up from my seat and held him over his shoulders and offered him a seat, but he refused to sit down. The tears coming out from his eyes increased in volume and it flooded my office. After some minutes of confused silence, I asked him what was amiss. He couldn't talk. I asked, "Are you bereaved of your wife, son or daughter?" He nodded negatively. "Were you scammed?" I asked him. He shook his head sideways. Finally I asked, "What then is wrong?" He slumped on the seat and tearfully replied, "Father, I am totally broke. Acute economic hardship and restlessness of mind and body have weighed me down totally. My wife and my half dozen children are dying of hunger. There is no hope at all." He cried aloud like a wounded bull. I was touched to the bone marrow. I consoled him like a helpless baby. He was speechless for almost half an hour. Then he broke the emotional silence and muttered, "Please father, I want to make a special request." I looked at him pitifully and said, "My ears are open." He stood up with sign of dizziness and said, "Father, please I want you to ask the Pope to postpone this year's Christmas because of the intractable problems in Nigeria, especially hunger, which is starring me and uncountable number of people in the face." I burst out with sorrowful laughter. The man knelt down and uttered, "Father, it is not a laughing matter at all. I am serious. My family and millions of poor Nigerians are dying in agony presently." After a thoughtful silence I replied, "My dear brother, I share your sorrow with you and with other agonizing citizens of this country. I am also not left out. But your request is a hard nut to crack. The Pope has power to bind and lose in the name of the Lord. However, he cannot postpone Christmas because it is the universal celebration of the Birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." It must be celebrated in good times and in bad times until the world comes to an end.

As I was talking, the tear-stricken man was yawning continuously. By the visionary power bestowed on me, I saw hunger written all over the man's body. Since delay is dangerous, I took him by the hand to my residential house for corporate healing. I offered him an overflowing and appetizing plate of pounded yam with over- crowded soup. He was thankful as he began to eat without even washing his hands. I went up to bring him a bottle of malt and drinking water. Before I could come down, he was already leaking the soup plate with his tongue. He drank the malt and water one after another in a twinkle of an eye. His face beamed with wonderful smiles as he recited, "Give us this day our daily bread. Thank you father! I have seen God face to face today." As he was dancing in gratitude, I went and brought three tubers of yam, a quarter bag of rice and a light-heavy envelop. I handed them over to him. He shouted, "Praise the Lord! Please I withdraw my request here and now. No more postponement of Christmas. Let it come fast." I escorted him to the gate and waved at him saying, "Happy Christmas!" He laughed and replied, "Father, the same to you! And shame to me!" He grasped those food items tightly and danced away acrobatically and joyfully.

Christmas is the universal joyful and solemn Christian celebration of the Birth of Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of sinful mankind. The term Christmas is coined from this group of words: 'Mass on Christ's day.' Indeed the exact date of Christ's birth is humanly uncertain. It was fixed on 25 December to counteract the Roman pagan feast of the sun-god. The synonym of Christmas is Yuletide. Christmas in German is called 'Weihnachten'. It is 'Navidad' in Spanish; 'Natale' in Italian and 'Noel' in French. My Igbo people call it 'Ekeresimesi' or 'Nkili.'

Christmas is the greatest gift of God to mankind, wherein the Word of God was made flesh and dwelt among us. He saved us from the age-long bondage of sin since the unfortunate Fall of Adam and Eve. Hence the Angels sang on that night of Nativity, "Glory to God in the highest! And on earth, peace to men of goodwill." The Almighty and merciful God has shown us his goodwill by giving us his only Son as ransom. Indeed, the Lord is good, all the time!

As the redeemed children of God, we have to reciprocate this divine gesture to our fellow human beings in divergent ways. The corporal and spiritual works of mercy ought to be put into practice at Christmas and every other day. Thus within the Yuletide celebration, December 26 is marked out as Boxing Day. What does it mean? Some persons are funny. A comic Christian husband woke up from sleep on Boxing Day. As his wife was coming out of the bathroom in the early morning of that day, he punched her face with clenched fist. The wife screamed and asked emotionally, "Darling, what is wrong?" The boxing-happy husband replied, "Baby, have you forgotten that today is Boxing Day? It is my painful but lovely gift to you to mark this special day of Yuletide." The wife with mixed feelings of pain and joy responded, "Darling, you got it wrong. Boxing Day is a special day of offering precious gifts to your loved ones as well as the less privileged." As compensation for the painful and lovely punch, the darling husband took her out and bought her a golden wrist watch and golden necklace. With great joy in her heart, the wife exclaimed, "Darling, thank you! I love you! Your boxing is as sweet as honey."

Let us remember the less privileged among us as a gesture of Christmas celebration. We should offer them boxes of assorted gifts which can alleviate their specific situations. It pays to be generous. So many families are languishing in hunger and penury. The high cost of living in Nigeria nowadays is so exorbitant. It is unfortunate that we are in a country where the cost of living is killing the living. A bag of rice now is over fifty thousand naira. Other essential commodities are also affected. The food and drinks we share with the hungry and the thirsty will prolong their life spans. The clothes we give to the naked will make them not to catch harmattan cold. The visit we pay to the sick and imprisoned will brighten their days. The time we spend with the lonely and the bereaved is medicinal and consoling. Orphans are waiting for us to give them motherly and fatherly care. The homeless look forward to befitting shelter to enjoy while they are still alive, before they lie in state on their death beds. Sinners are waiting to be converted before they rest in pieces. If we do all these corporal and spiritual works of mercy, then no sane person can request for the postponement of Christmas.

Christmas is the celebration of Love. It is also the time for sober reflection and repentance from our sins. God cannot dwell in a heart full of iniquities. We should forgive ourselves and others. Also we should reconcile with God and with one another. Are you not in talking terms with someone? It is time to reconcile and forgive. When you remember it, you forgive again. Forgive and forget is difficult. I wish you all Merry Christmas and Prosperous New Year 2024. See you then; if death does not knock at my door.