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MAS OF CHRIST
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God’s grace was given to humankind, grace which found its fulfilment in the person of Jesus Christ. The fall of man, brought about by sin, unfolded God’s ultimate plan of salvation, which was realized in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus then is the centre of humankind—the focus of Christmas.
What then is Christmas, which is being celebrated across the world? To understand the effects of Christ birth that Christmas stands for, it necessary to analyse history itself. Controversies abound about the actual date of the Lord’s birth; the fixed date of Christmas itself is wrapped in fetish origin. So, in reality Christmas, especially 25th of December has its morally questionable origin.
Christ actual birth date is unknown, this is a known fact. Some scholars traced it to either September or October, certainly not 25th of December. True as this maybe, no one really knows—but the date is not really important to spiritually-minded Christian, but the Lord Jesus himself is.
Now December 25th as some scholars posited in their works, is connected to the worship of pagan god, Saturnalia (or Sacaea) which dated far back as 4,000 years before Christ was born. The date was in honour of pagan god Nimrod/Tammuz, as celebration of the birthday of the sun. On this day holiday is declared, war postponed, gifts being given, friendship renewed, celebration being held—there was total sense of brotherhood that prevailed—something akin to Christmas. The world Book Encyclopaedia tells us that Bishop Liberius ordered the people to celebrate Christ birth on 25th December. Santa Claus figurehead too came into the celebration of Christmas. Some scholars revealed that the merging of the figures of pagan god ‘Odin’ with a Bishop of Asia Minor produced Santa Claus—a total pagan tradition.
True, Roman Catholic Church conquered the pagan world, and had many of their pagan traditions and celebrations Christianized to assimilate the new converts. Christmas, meaning Mass of Christ, fixed by church authority between 4th and 5th century after the birth and ascension of the Lord, to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on 25th of December the date itself is connected to pagan worship. In the act of celebration some Christians too had formed pagan habit of venerating Christmas trees, mistletoes, Santa Claus, and other kind of physical celebrations that had similarity with paganism. Though these acts are morally questionable, but the motives behind them are mostly pure.
Now, celebration of Christmas is it right or wrong? Is it of biblical origin or not? These are controversial questions with equal answers on both sides. Is it right or wrong is of personal conviction—no one can be the absolute judge. Is it of biblical origin or not? The answer to this is absolutely no! Then why celebrating what has no biblical origin?
To answer the last question above we have to understand the power to decide and make choice God has graciously bestowed on humans as a gift. I need no God commandment to celebrate the birth of my child with friends and well-wishers. I need no God commandment to host a feast at the opening of my new house I built. I need no God commandment to rejoice and make merriment with friends and family at the new job I recently got that will make my life better. I need no God commandment to celebrate my wedding anniversary. I need no God commandment to celebrate my graduation from higher academic institution. I need no God commandment to sit down, make a special feast with friends and family celebrating me just being alive. All these centres on choice-making God have given me as a human being.
The celebration of Christmas was fixed by men (early church pioneers), truly many of them were righteous men who even laid down their lives for their faith in Christ Jesus. God hardly intervene in the choice men make, He has bestowed power on His church to run His affair on earth at the guidance of the Holy Spirit—so their choice-making is of paramount importance to Him. Regardless of the short-comings and weakness of these early church men, their notable deeds are worth commending with love and understanding—not outright condemnation! These men were faced with hard choices that were crucial to Christendom; from natural impulse mingled with Holy Spirit-motivated impulse they formulated laws, promulgated decrees, fought physically, enforced harsh measures, and even killed—all was for the sole aim of seeing Christ reach the uttermost part of the world either for righteousness sake or for personal gain. Errors were made (terrible errors), wrong decisions were made, and confusion between God’s Righteous ways and men cunning ways had root in their hearts. All these can be forgiven if we try to understand the prevailing situations at that time of the rising of Christianity amidst the fetish world, and for the fact that the Bible as we have today was not available for their nourishment in those days. We should temper mercy with our judgement of their actions and decisions, especially for the fact that God Himself did not out-rightly oppose them and made sure their decision (especially in regards to celebration of Christmas) did not prosper till our present century—He understood their motives and had compassion on their weaknesses—they were His instruments that saw to the spread of Christianity across the world.
Now we of this century that have come to understand that Christ is indeed the reason of this season (Christmas), regardless of the fetish origin of December 25th (we do not worship false gods even though this day had it origin from them, Jehovah God is the God of all, the Creator of earth itself, He owns hours, days, months, years, and seasons—we should not submit to the believe that gods and demons owns all these days—“The earth is the LORD's, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein,” Psalm 24.), should completely make Jesus Christ the full focus in all our dealings and celebrations.
The day Jesus was born many things happened, things that are worth remembering and celebrating. Even angels were seen by the shepherds watching their flock at night rejoicing: “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men,” Luke 2:13-14. The birth of Christ marked a turning point in the history of humankind. His coming into the world was as light cut into the darkness and brought hope for mankind. It was quite significant, His birth was as significant as His death—without the birth there would have not been death in the first place. At the birth of Christ God felt relieved; He had been pregnant with salvation since the downfall of man in the Garden of Eden, so at the birth of the Christ peace was restored to God—His ultimate gift of salvation in the person of Christ had come to the earth. No wonder the host of angels were rejoicing and praising Him for His good will towards humans.
As this season of Mass of Christ progress (or approach) we should think about what Christ had done for the world with solemn reflection, and not celebrate with eating and drinking and merry-making alone—like the unbelievers of the world. There are no holy day in the term of the world, if we criticize 25th of December, we should as well criticise every other day. Monday to Sunday had pagan connotation too, each day of the week got its name from pagan gods, even the months we have come to know (January to December) were not of Christian or godly origin. For example, January is named in honour of Roman god Janus—the pagan names just go on like that.
Christ Jesus is the reason for this season, and nothing else—not pagan gods or demons or evil spirits—regardless of whom this day originated from. In our understanding of things we should reflect and meditate on this scripture passage: “One man esteems one day as better than another, while another man esteems all days alike. Let every one be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it in honour of the Lord. He also who eats, eats in honour of the Lord since he gives thanks to God. None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s,” Romans 14:5-8, RSV.
One who esteems and celebrates the Mass of Christ in honour to the Lord does no wrong. Also, one who abstains from the celebration in honour of the Lord does no wrong—since all give thanks to the Lord. The most important thing is that Christ is esteemed; it is the choice of men to esteem their Lord of lords and King of kings in a certain day we have known as December 25th and this choice should be respected and no hindrance lay before any brethren as long as such abide in the Gospels of Christ and in the Light of Jehovah God according to the leading of the Holy Spirit.
As we continue in this season (or approach this season), with Christ Jesus the focus of the celebration, we should sanitize the world of the true purpose of Christ Mas, and not follow the norms of the world in sinful celebration. May Christ keep us together in spirit of love and unity and increase our tolerance and understanding of things. Happy celebration to all brethren in Christ Jesus who celebrates; and to those who abstain I say give thanks to the Lord in your abstinence.
Samuel Olusegun Akinola
Minister/writer/novelist, playwright and poet
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