Christmas Day: Thousands throng churches to celebrate

Rwandan clerics preached the need for patience among Christians in their Christmas messages yesterday. Various churches visited by The New Times were filled to capacity as Christians gathered to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.
Bishop Louis Muvunyi preaches to the congregation at St. Etienne Cathedral. / Timothy Kisambira
Bishop Louis Muvunyi preaches to the congregation at St. Etienne Cathedral. / Timothy Kisambira

Rwandan clerics preached the need for patience among Christians in their Christmas messages yesterday.

Various churches visited by The New Times were filled to capacity as Christians gathered to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

At St. Etienne Cathedral, several Christians had to seat on the balcony and under tents erected in the church’s compound to catch Christmas Day prayers.

Zion Temple, and Anglican Church of Rwanda, Remera Parish, were fully packed as well.

The faithful were also urged to embrace good values of kindness and love so as to live in harmony with others and achieve prosperity for all.

Christians at St Michel give offertory during a mass in Kigali. / Timothy Kisambira

Preaching at St. Etienne Cathedral, the Bishop of the Anglican Kigali Diocese Louis Muvunyi, told his congregation that Christmas Day should be more than just celebration but also about reflection.

“Let this day not be only about eating and drinking, let it not be about making merry only, let it not be about getting us to celebrate yet another Christmas, let it be about reflecting about our lives and gauging whether we are living it in a way that glorifies God,” he said.

Bishop Muvunyi reminded the congregation of a man in Jerusalem called Simeon and an elderly lady called Anna, who were both righteous and devout who despite the hardships believed in God’s promise.

Talking about Anna, Bishop Muvunyi said that the elderly woman had lost her husband after only seven years of marriage but she never lost faith.

“By the time Jesus was born, Anna was 84 years old but let us remember that she had gone through different trials and tribulations. She became a widow at a very young age and being a widow during those times as it is today; was challenging. Let me tell you women, patience, resilience and belief in God are very important. You can only manage to get through such a hard time if you form a strong bond with God,” he said.

Children carry gifts at St Michel during christmas mass service. / Timothy Kisambira

Still talking of Simeon, Bishop Muvunyi said that the known address of the elderly man was in Church, where he spent almost all his time.  He used the opportunity to criticise those who only come to Church on Christmas Day advising them to build a relationship with God.

“We have a problem; some of you only show up at the church on Christmas Day and you walk away feeling that it’s enough. I advise you to build a permanent relationship with God and to always be close to him. The same way you follow news should be the same way you should dedicate your time to God so that you always updated about his teachings otherwise, you will end up being surprised,” he said.

Patrick Musanabera said that the day’s sermon had made him reflect on his relationship with God.

“When he talked about people who rarely pray, I thought about myself. I am ashamed because I live less than 100 meters away from the Church. I have added prayer to my new year’s resolutions,” he said.

Fr. Mulenga Christian from Zambia anoints a baby before baptizing him at St Michel. / Timothy Kisambira

Martine Uwanyirigira, who is a regular at St. Etienne Church, said that she had picked patience and belief in God as an important attribute from the sermon.

At Saint Michel Catholic Church, Father Jean-Claude Muvandimwe in his sermon urged children and parents to embrace positive values of love and peace.

“Baptism [of children] must be a step for parents to educate their children and inculcate values of love and peace so as to build better society. Children are foundation of society and Christians the world needs in order to live peacefully. Parents therefore have responsibility to educate them. If people do not love one another, there would be no joy, security and peace in the community,” he preached.

The father urged Christians to emulate the sacrifice and endurance as shown by Jesus Christ.

Christians shared their views on how educating children on positive values build a peaceful society.

“A well-educated child by a Christian family, once grown up, they cannot think of robbery, cannot forget the needy people. With well-educated children, there would be no domestic violence,” Philomene Uwamaliya said.

Meanwhile Apostle Dr. Paul M. Gitwaza, Senior Pastor of Zion Temple Kigali, said Christmas is about the coming of Jesus onto the world, which is precious gift to the people.

He said people should have love not as a mantra, rather have it as a real tool for achieving welfare for all.

St. Etienne Cathedral choir sing during the mass service. / Timothy Kisambira

“What I ask Christians, on this Christmas, is to offer the best gift to their friends. That gift is love. God does not request us more; he requests us that as he loved us, we should also love our friends. Second, as he gave us peace, we should also give it to our friends,” he said.

“Everyone should give the best they have within them; [that is] the heart of love and kindness, [and] helping others. Once we have or we get that, we will not have hungry people near us, [because] love requests us to feed them; we will not have orphans [in poor living conditions] because love requests us to take care of them. The same applies to the widows and all other vulnerable people,” he said.

Pastor Antoine Rutayisire of the Anglican Church of Rwanda, Remera Parish said that people should not be engrossed in amassing wealth alone rather work for better results for the betterment for all.

He added that a person would not get satisfied when they only hunt for more money generating jobs as money is never enough.

Referring to famine that ravaged Ethiopia in 1980s, singers convened and sang a song with “feed the world, let them know it’s Christmas time”, he said “Christmas is time to do good for one another, stretching hands to others for kindness and compassion.

Go and do kindness to one another; go and love one another, go and look for peace, go and tell people that Jesus was born and will give you good life. That is the meaning of Christmas,” he said.

He said that Jesus is the King of Peace, the sign of kindness and humility and that people should emulate him so as to enjoy good living, adding that Christmas should not only be a time for enjoying food and drinks, but also worshiping God and doing good.

He dismissed the long-held thinking that one who wants peace prepares a war, rather said that one who wants peace looks for strategic options to achieve peace, because one gets what they have prepared to do.

Enjoy but remember to praise God

At Evangelical Restoration Church in Kimisagara sector, there was singing and dancing as well as preaching.

Pastor Israel Deo Ntizimira preached: “Let’s people enjoy, celebrate Christmas eat and drink, dance and smile but all those if done without praising the lord, it could be in vain. All happens from God’s wishes and none can prevent it.”


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