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CHRIST THE HOPE OF HUMANITY

We unite with angels of Christmas to glorify the Lord for the gift of Christmas is a unique occasion which gets not just the attention of almost the entire world but has fundamental consequences for both the spiritual, cultural or generally temporal affairs of peoples, Christians or non-Christians. One interesting thing about it all is that regardless of differing dispositions or perception of Christmas by individuals and groups concerning they think it means to their lives, all approach it as a festival of joy and goodwill towards all. I have no experience of any group that understands the sentiments of Christmas as being different from this.

Christmas Joy: A spring from a Living Hope

The Christmas season of 2017 meets us Nigerians is a very difficult time, particularly in Osun State given the protracted economic adversity that has not only perpetuated but has increased poverty, lack, sickness and pain among us. Beloved in Christ does that not seem as an obstacle to Christmas joy? The answer of the Church is NO! Christmas is not a mere celebration of a temporal festival. Christmas is celebrated rather to announce to the whole of creation that the good God has taken flesh and dwells among us in the midst of our suffering.

Christmas is a joyful announcement that reminds us that we are not alone- God is with us in this world and in this adverse circumstance in life. It is the announcement of hope, a hope that does not deceive because its object is God who is TRUTH. Our world is full of suffering but let us rejoice because the one who can make it good has not sent a messenger to us, He has come Himself. No matter how we delay His work of making “Lion and lamb to be at peace” by our refusal to cooperate with HIM, His work would still be done eventually. True joy that comes from justice, respect for the rights of others, care for the weak and helpless and goodwill towards everyone is not a wishful thinking but a reality we look forward to and keep working for because God in Christmas comes to us and is directly involved in the transformation of our lives.

Contemplating God in an infant at Christmas lifts our heart to hold on joyfully to the joyful events of this year no matter how scanty and little which we believe have their source in God. If God the author of the universe has manifested to us in a fragile baby, then we should also believe and celebrate those little joyful experiences in the hope of greater things that God can bring out of them in the future. A Christian who truly believes in the Word Made Flesh must grow to truly rejoice always!

Celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, we remember that he is the light who brings us out of darkness. As prophet Isaiah says: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined” (Isaiah 9:2).In our excitement and the hustle and bustle of preparations for Christmas, we should ask ourselves, how do we bring light and hope to our communities?

Above all we must love the God of love who is at the heart of Christmas. God loves us to the extent of taking on our human nature to redeem sinful humanity. By his words, his actions, his entire person God came close to us. Very close, sharing love and living a life of love as example to us on earth that is full of wickedness, sadness and hatred. Let your love show forth this Christmas in reconciliation where love has broken down in families, in societies where peace has been disrupted and friendship betrayed.

As we celebrate Christmas I urge every one of us to look down at the ground on which you are walking.It tells us stories that some people walked on it last year who are presently buried under the ground. We therefore have every reason to sing “Joy to the World the Lord has come, let earth receive her king.” Again each one must look out  at our community; to see what we can contribute to bring joy to it, using our God given talents, time and available resources we can spare for the less privileged around us in the Spirit of Christmas.

Christmas hasRaised the Value of Human Life

Brethren, I wish to remind you all that the incarnation of Christ has raised the dignity of the temporal life of human beings. Jesus has sanctified and declared holy and precious the life of man from its very beginning to its natural end. We must realize this because He took the natural course of conception and journeyed through to birth even His is surrounded by mysteries and grace. We thus must grow in our respect for human life, support it, nurture it and reach out to rescue it when we find it in danger of death or the indignity of suffering. When we do so, we have rescued a relative of Jesus for all human beings are His relatives by virtue of His becoming man and dwelling with us.

Upholding the dignity of life requires that all human beings especially children in the family be brought up with plans and commitment that requires sacrifice from parents and other family members to enable them reach their true potentials and purpose in life. Young people should be brought in families that are rich in Christian values. In this way, they will grow to pursue a dignifying life in the sight of God and so fulfill the will of God for them.

Nigerian families today have been challenged with declining values, broken pieces of un-fulfilled promises, failed expectations and dashed hope are common and these have led to dysfunctional homes. Our young ones these days observe their parents do bad things at their impressionable age and simply copy them. The attributes of  “old family values” which include honesty, respect, purity, care and commitment have all been thrown away, seen now as “old school issues.” The task of building a nation without families attaching values of respect, hospitality and high moral rectitude will not work. The break down in family values today is partly responsible for the degeneracy noticeable in Nigerian youths

In His Apostolic Exhortation : Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love), the Holy Father, Pope Francis says,  “The joy of Love experienced by families is also the joy of the Church…The Bible is full of families,  births, love stories and family crises. This is true from its very first page, with the appearance of Adam and Eve’s family with all its burden of violence but also its enduring strength (cf. Gen. 4) to its very last page, where we behold the wedding feast of the Bride and the Lamb (Rev. 21:2, 9).PopeFrancis  re-affirms that the family is the place where children are brought up in the faith cf. (Ex 12: 26 -27; Deut. 6: 20-25). “The family is thus the place where parents become their children’s first teachers in the faith. They learn the faith passing it down from generation to generation cf. (Ex. 13: 14; Ps 148: 1-2). Parents have a serious responsibility for this task (cf. Prov. 3: 11-12; 6:20-22; 13:1; 22: 15).

I therefore hereby direct as part of your Christmas and New Year resolution to give attention to your children especially the youth because they at times tend to think that they can take care of themselves but in reality they need care and attention. With strong family institution we can build a strong nation where the social challenges currently confronting our dear country such as corruption, drug addiction, cultism, teenage pregnancy, kidnapping, armed robbery etc will be uprooted from our society.

To rebuild our world, we must rebuild the family institution. It is our collective responsibility to make our world a better place for all to live in, and more importantly to rebuild our crumbling moral family values system. Today more than before, we must journey with young couples reminding them of family goals and ways to overcome challenges inherent in early stage of marital life. If we succeed in raising family values, we will surely have a peaceful and orderly society.

May the New Year be a joyful one for every family, a year that is full of every good thing you desire from God. May Our Lady Mother of Perpetual Help journey with you and your families in the New Year. May our hearts be Christlike.

+John Akin Oyejola,

Bishop, Catholic Diocese of Osogbo.

 


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