Every year at Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Some people say we are not sure of His date of birth. “Definitely not 25 December” they say.
It is true we can’t be sure about the date. But there is something we can be sure about: A Saviour was born at a point in time in history.
This is no fiction. No fabrication. No figment of man’s imagination as some people suggest. It was a recorded historical event orchestrated by the finger of God.
Jesus was born. And He was born with a purpose. His purpose was announced before He was born. An angel of God had announced to Joseph,
And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. Matthew 1:21
That is it! The purpose of Christ’s birth was to save us from our sins. That’s the reason we celebrate His Birth. That is the reason for Christmas!
That tells me that if your sins have not been forgiven – or better still, if you have not received the forgiveness of your sins – by giving your life to Jesus Christ, the purpose of Christmas has not been fulfilled in your life.
As the saying goes, “If the purpose of something is not known, abuse is inevitable.” That seems to be the case with Christmas; many people are celebrating without knowing the essence of it. As a result, they end up abusing it.
I used to be like that. For many years, I looked forward to Christmas for some other reasons other than the birth of a Saviour. But once I got born again, I began to understand the real essence of Christmas.
The real essence of Christmas is not the beautiful carol we hear or sing, not the ambience, the special shoppings, the fanfare, the feasting, and all other kinds of activities we enjoy during the season. The real essence of Christmas is found in the original purpose: Jesus was born to save the world.
Christmas is a celebration of love. The love of God to the world in sending a Saviour to die for us. That popular Bible verse says,
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16
So as you celebrate, do not forget the real purpose of Christmas.
There were many wonderful memories I had growing up in that predominantly agrarian village where a sizeable portion of the population, with a few exceptions, professed to be Christians.
One of such memories is that of various celebrations which took place in the community on an annual basis. Apart from the universal Easter, Christmas and New Year celebrations, there were other big festivals that were equally engaged in.
The New Yam Festival,Iwaji, is celebrated in the third quarter of the year to mark the beginning of farm harvests and then followed closely with a festival of dance and music, known as Ogbanigbe. Both festivals which attracted visitors from far and near, were ‘traditional’ in nature and were celebrated by almost everyone in that serene community.
However, many ‘serious’ Christians in the land, especially those from amongst the Pentecostal circle, did not join in the Ogbanigbe celebration for fear of being ‘contaminated’. Their sentiment for not participating in the festivals was that such ceremonies were rooted in idolatory and ancestral worship, giving glory to demons and not to the true God.
And they were right – because of some reasons outside the scope of this post.
In those early days, my siblings and I saw ourselves as Christians, having been following our mum to church. But our personal convinctions were not very deep. So we were passive participants in the festivals until we became fully detached from their celebrations.
Personally, I can still recall previously having some pleasures in the festivals during my pre-teen years, especially as far as the family feasting aspect of the celebrations was concerned. This was due mainly to the influence of my father in the home, making provisions for special meals to be prepared during those festivals.
Unlike my mother, my father – although a very morally upright man – wasn’t a christian and so he had a longstanding belief in those festivals. But he never forced any member of the family to participate in them.
By virtue of his status as as an ‘elder’ in the village at the time, he was given special recognition which required that the festival’s dance-parties visited our house to pay the traditional ceremonial homage to him during their main street ogbanigbe carnivals.
The beginning of Change
As time went on, I gave up whatever pleasures I might have had in those festivals. This happened after I became born again in my early teens and began to be taught the living word of God which empowered me spiritually and also enabled me to make decisions that were in line with my new found love and passion for the only true God, the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ.
While it is true that becoming born again helped in realigning my values and focus with respect to the annual festivities of those years, it was not an over-night change. I gradually refrained from having anything whatsoever to do with the ceremonies. The rest is history!
Therefore come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you. 2 Corrinthians 6:17.
Cerebration by all
Christmas, though popularly known as a Christian festival, was celebrated by everyone around me, irrespective of religious background. But in those days the real essence of it was lost to me and, I believe, to majority of the celebrants as well.
Growing up then, it didn’t matter if one was a Christian or not, Christmas was a feast for all to celebrate; everyone one around, whether they went to church or not, or were involved in the so-called traditional worship, all of us participated in Christmas celebrations.
The only exception I can remember was a girl two years my senior in secondary school, a member of the Jehovah Witnesses. Including Christmas, she never joined in the celebration of ‘anything’ at all. She even refused to join in reciting the national anthem and other songs we sang on the assembly ground every morning.
Before the essense of Christmas hit me
Christmas is the commemoration of the birth of Jesus. But while we all celebrated it, most often than not, not all of us remembered or even cared about the real purpose of it.
We all focused on the fanfare rather than on why Jesus was born in the first place. Sadly that mistake is still observable in many places around the world today.
In my pre-teen years, Christmas time for me meant that we were approaching the time for the longest school holiday in the academic year. That meant I would have more time to play street football with my friends from school and around the neighbourhoods.
Christmas also meant that I was going to get a new set of clothes, a new pair of shoes, a wrist watch and a pair of sunglasses to match. It was particularly fun wearing those pair of eye-classes; once you had them on, the grounds appeared to be shifting and un-levelled. Still we managed to move around in them and then returned home to mama, safely.
At Christmas, relations who lived in cities would return home for family reunions, a once in a year ritual. We also visited relations and family friends around town, especially on the boxing day. We would be lavishly served with rice and chicken and in some cases soft drinks.
And once we stood up to go back home, we would be given some money which the giver would often say, “This is for all of you.” That announcement was necessary to avoid a situation were the direct recipient would think the money was meant for only him or her.
Reports were rampant then of children or teenagers fighting over such money… But fortunately for me, my ‘visitation’ groups were always cooperative, so at the end of day, we always amicably shared all the accumulated moneys from such visits.
You can say Christmas was another way of getting money from people you knew, as it appeared everyone was more generous during that time.
Rice and stew very plenty
Back at home from Christmas day service in church, there would be plenty of food to eat. Some people would prefer specially made local delicacies on this day. But the children (including yours truly) would relish the specially made Christmas rice and stew.
Our parents made sure they ‘killed’ chicken to serve it along. If anybody’s mum failed to prepare rice and chicken in special stew, especially on the boxing day, he or she would have the feeling that the Christmas for that year was not fantastic.
So basically, our Christmas then like in many other places was full of eating and drinking (mostly soft drinks, no alcohol) visiting families in new outfits and other forms of celebrations. Not many people remembered or even knew the real essence of Christmas.
Understanding the real essense of Christmas
After I got born again, I began to understand the true meaning of Christmas. A Saviour was born to save the world. The slogan Christ is the reason for the season became a living reality.
I still wore new clothes at Christmas. I still ate specially prepared meals. But those were no longer my main focus: Christ was and still is.
We became challenged to share the love of God in more active ways – reaching out to people with the true meaning of Christmas.
Yes, we went out for evangelism, sharing the love of Christ in any way we deemed fit. What better way to celebrate Christmas than to tell people the Saviour was born to save them from their sins?
As we celebrate ‘Christmas’, let us remember the ‘Christ’ in it!
I know some of you know Me already.
But many of you are yet to know Me personally.
You must have heard about Me before.
As my Name is regularly called amongst the nations.
I can see you feel happy this special season.
And I really like that… but you deserve much more.
I can feel the special and colourful atmosphere.
Pervading across many lands around the world.
The special emphasis on love and giving this season.
The special music playing in homes and malls for the same reason.
The beautiful decorations all around are all noticed.
All is well and good and appreciable.
You say it’s about a Baby that was born by a virgin.
You are right; it happened several centuries ago.
But do you know I Am that Baby?
Much more than that… I am the Lord and Saviour.
You commemorate My birthday yearly at Christmas.
Celebrating it by all means and ways possible.
Eating the best of meals and drinking the best of wines.
Exchanging gifts amongst yourselves.
You and everyone seem to be happy.
As you spend your time and money.
Visiting people and visiting places.
And throwing parties here and there.
You do all that because of Me?… fine!
But do you know what I really I want from you?
I mean, am I not the One you are celebrating?
At Least I should get a special gift from you!
But do you know the gift I ask of you?
I don’t really want your money.
I don’t want your sacrifices either.
I don’t want whatever you have to give.
You care to know what I really want from you?
I will tell you once again and again:
I want you to know Me personally.
That’s what I really want from you.
You can begin by giving Me your life.
I have given Mine to you already.
That was why I was born, you know!
That was why I lived and died!
It’s time you rewrote your life’s story.
It breaks my heart that year in year out.
You celebrate My birthday religiously.
Without knowing Me the true Celebrant.
Yes, I am the One you celebrate His birth at Christmas.
I am the “Reason for the Season.”
In case you haven’t noticed it before.
My name (Christ) is the main part of Christmas.
Yes, I am Christ the anointed One.
I am Jesus Christ of Nazareth, Son of God.
I was born, I lived, and I died for you.
All I want is for You to know Me personally.
I knew you before you were born.
I invite you to come and know Me now.
So we can be together forever in glory.
Through this life and the one to come.
It is Christmas
The day we celebrate the greatest birth
The birth of a Saviour
The Saviour sent from God
The God of mercy and love
The love that is true and unconditional
Unconditional because we didn’t deserve it
Yes undeserved, but freely given
Given to all who will receive in faith
Faith in the born Saviour we celebrate Today
Not just today, but
Everyday for the rest of our lives.
Merry Christmas to you.
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WHEN YOU ARE CAUGHT CELEBRATING THE BIRTHDAY OF A STRANGER
Written By Victor Uyanwanne
Birthday celebration is a common phenomenon amongst people of all cultures around the world. Apart from a few exceptions, such as members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, most people I know irrespective of religious or socio-political affiliations observe either their own birthdays or those of their loved ones etc.
When it comes to the issue of birthday celebration, Christians are no exceptions. Right now we are in that special season of the year when we celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. That’s what Christmas is – remembering the birth of Christ!
From homes to churches, shopping malls and other public publics, one would have to be blind not to notice the effect of the special season. Colourful decorations adorn the landscapes, feeding the eyes with resplendent appearances. Everywhere we turn, we can hardly evade the Christmas frenzy as there are melodious Christmas tunes churned out by one form of music media or another.
Without doubt, we have all been caught up in the spirit of the season. But whether everybody acknowledges it or not, “Jesus is the reason for the season.”
I do not want to delve into the argument in some certain quarters as to whether it is good or not for Christians to celebrate Christmas. It suffices to say that it is not a sin to celebrate it and it is not a sin not to celebrate.
What matters is why we celebrate it or why we chose not to celebrate it. After all, the beauty of Christmas is not in the actual celebration but in the essence of the celebration.
I believe the essence of Christmas can be traced to the reason for the birth of Jesus Christ. Before Jesus was born, an angel had announced to Joseph that his wife “….will give birth to a son, and you [Joseph] are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
In fulfilling the mandate of saving His people (and the world in general) from Sin, Jesus would have to die. But would he die if he wasn’t born in the first place? We celebrate His birth at Christmas and his death and resurrection at Easter. To the average Christian, both celebrations are significant!
Jesus was born to die to save us from our sins. This is part of what we ought to bear in mind as we celebrate Christmas again this year. Through Jesus Christ, our relationship with the God has been restored.
Those who celebrate Christmas without having a personal relationship with the Jesus Christ are celebrating the birthday of a Stranger. But the Stranger is standing by to be turned into a Friend of eternal significance.
Unfortunately, many people around the world celebrate Christmas without knowing the real essence of the celebration. Generally, most people recognize Christmas as:
A time to share love
A time to give gifts
A time to eat special meals
A time of visiting with family and friends
A time to rest
A time of shopping
A time to buy new cloths
A time to party
A time to do Carols
A time to hold other special events.
None of the activities listed above is bad in themselves. But they end up as meaningless activities if Christ is not the main focus.
How can one make Christ the centre of one’s celebration? One has to begin by establishing personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ!
“In today’s day and time, it is easy to lose sight of the true meaning of Christmas. Amidst the delicious meals, sweet drinks, lovely songs & dances, beautiful friends & family members we would come across this season, let’s try not to forget about the child, born on a winter night so cold, whose bed was made only of hay & animal food; our lord Jesus Christ, who taught us all what real, genuine & unconditional love is. As we celebrate the birth of our saviour, let’s be human & kind enough to remember & show some love to those motherless babies, helpless orphans, hospital patients, prisoners, beggars & all those who are not fortunate enough to be actively involved in the celebration of the birth of our lord and saviour Jesus Christ.”
Christmas would be more meaningful if all the people celebrating had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ the celebrant.
In any birthday occasion, the pleasure is more if one knows the celebrant personally, than if you one is a complete stranger to the celebrant. For instance, if my father was celebrating his birthday, it would mean more to me to join in the celebration than if the birthday party is for some man down town.
In the same vein, Christmas would be more meaningful if all the people celebrating had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ the celebrant. Those who celebrate Christmas without having a personal relationship with the Jesus Christ are celebrating the birthday of a Stranger. But the Stranger is standing by to be turned into a Friend of eternal significance.
To such people, Jesus is saying “”Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends” Revelation 3:20 NIV . My friend, this is the time to invite Jesus into your heart, if you haven’t already done so. Make this Christmas the most special you have ever had by becoming a friend of Jesus Christ the celebrant.
To all of us who already have a relationship with Jesus Christ, He is no longer a stranger to us. He is our Lord and Master, faithful Friend and Lover. Therefore let us bring glory to God as we have the opportunity once again to remember the birth of His dear Son. So let us:
Do everything in love;
Reflect Jesus in every way as we celebrate
Seek to bring other others into a personal relationship with Jesus.
Merry Christmas in advance.
CopyRight | Victor Uyanwanne
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