Yesterday was Christmas Day when the world celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. Christians filled churches to overflowing. Some of them were last in the hallowed places the same time last year.
Many more were unable to attend the religious festivities because they had spent the previous night merry-making and were either too inebriated or weak.
The end of year festive season that stretches from Christmas to New Year means many things to different people.
For some, it is a period during which the spirit of joy, peace, and goodwill reigns, usually marked by exchange of gifts and good wishes. This feeling of generosity has something to do with communal festivities, whether religious or social.
They tend to bring out the best in human beings and a desire to share and reach out to others – at least for the duration of the festivities.
It is possible to do this and bring out good cheer, because human beings are essentially cheerful people. We do not like things that depress us, which is what our daily struggles do, and for that reason welcome anything that dispels that air of gloom and lifts our spirits.
When this short spell of wellbeing passes, as it sure will in the next two weeks, we ask ourselves why we cannot keep the spirit much longer. We say such things as, ‘that’s life’ or ‘it is too good to last’. It is an admission of resignation to a life without good things.
That, however, does not stop us from joining in the festive season’s wishes of joy and good tidings to all and pray that it does indeed extend to all, not just for a short while, but for much longer.
For others, the atmosphere of goodwill is a perfect excuse for all manner of excesses, some of which are even ungodly. But as people indulge themselves during the celebrations, they should, as Pope Francis pleaded, spare a thought for the millions who cannot celebrate because, either they do not have the means to do so, lack the opportunity or are otherwise barred.
This would surely be in keeping with the spirit of the season.
The festive season is also time for reflection, on one’s life, the state of the world, and how far we have moved towards or farther away from the message of Jesus’ birth, of peace and salvation, more than two thousand years ago.
On this last point, nothing has changed much since that time. He came into a hostile world, and his reception was not exactly royal although he was king and God. He was only received by a bunch of lowly shepherds tending sheep.
But sin and strife remain. Injustice still reigns. The rich continue to rob the poor. The powerful kill the weak. Senseless wars continue to ravage the world, and those with the means to stop them don’t; instead they fan the flames.
The voiceless continue to be muzzled. Even the church he founded does not speak with one voice.
His birth led to the murder of hundreds of innocent children on the orders of an extremely insecure king afraid that another king had been born and was destined to dethrone him. The murder of innocents still goes on in many parts of the world.
As a child, Jesus Christ, fled into exile and lived there as a refugee for a while. It is an experience many of us share. Refugees still flee their countries. People still immigrate to other countries in search of better opportunities.
Both are not readily accepted, or if they are, only begrudgingly. Indeed most times they are rejected and subjected to inhuman treatment.
But finally he reclaimed his rightful place, as indeed some of us did, after suffering, of course, and paying the ultimate price.
The lesson of Jesus’ life is one of faith and hope, in the possibilities of a better world, only if we agree to change our ways – keep his commandment to love our neighbour as we do ourselves, be our brother’s keeper and desist from challenging his authority or his very existence.
It is possible to give real meaning to the words of the angels and bring good tidings to the many suffering people across the world, including those in our region. The people with power, wealth and influence can do it, if only they can be touched by the spirit of the season and accept to become their brothers’ keeper.
Rwanda is living up to the spirit of common humanity by offering a home to fellow Africans whose humanity has been debased by others.
Perhaps we need leaders with the wisdom that led the wise men to Bethlehem to worship the infant king and away from Herod on their return journey to save him from certain death. The world needs leaders without Herod’s heart and intentions.
If some of our powerful countries stopped playing God and listened to the wishes of his children, we would have more peace in the world. Countries like Rwanda would be left alone to follow their path to prosperity and happiness for their people, and not be punished for it.
And we would all sing a chorus of joy, peace and goodwill to the world.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
The views expressed in this article are of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Times.