“WHAT is Christmas without a chicken? What is Christmas worth without the celebration that goes along with it? How can we celebrate the birth of the Lord without jubilation and merrymaking?”
These were the words of a friend from yesteryears. To him, Christmas is nothing but an occasion to hold fireworks display, an opportunity to revel in shindig, a time to down drinks and an excuse to paint the town in all shades of red. I dare say that not many of us are much different from my old friend; Christmas celebration offers us an opportunity to unwind and chill out. We gobble everything in sight, drink ourselves to stupor and party non-stop.
But if that is what Christmas is all about, then it is neither different from my birthday nor, indeed, yours. If the celebration of Christmas is reduced to an occasion to stuff the tummy, compare the sizes of turkeys, a time to see whose party draws the most guests or a time to engage in debauchery, then the essence is missed because no one needs Christmas as an excuse to go on a binge or parade their possession. No one needs this special occasion to give vent to licentiousness or wantonness. I am of the persuasion that we will be doing the memory of Jesus Christ great injustice if we focus more on the festivity that goes with Christmas rather than the lifestyle and message of Christ.
Probably the most profound statement made by Jesus is the golden rule; “All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye so to them; for this is the law and the prophets”. Simply put, treat others as you would want to be treated. It is the contravention of this injunction that leads to injustice. It is the violation of this instruction that leads to strife. It is the neglect of the golden rule that robs the world of the much needed peace.
Government functionaries plunder the treasury and misappropriate resources meant for the generality of the people. Consequently, developmental projects are abandoned, infrastructure goes to wrack and ruin, factories close shop, lecturers go on strike, etc. The pillage of the treasury results in poverty and extreme deprivation among the people. A family of eight subsists on less than N500 a day, while maternal and infant mortality is on the upscale. University graduates have no work to do; the moderate amongst them decide to join the swelling army of okada and tricycle riders or sell recharge cards. The immoderate seek the easy way out; prostitution for the girls and crime for the boys. The criminally-minded deploy their mental acumen to destructive ingenuity, some of them engage in cyber crime, while others become armed robbers, blowing up banks, raiding the streets with sophisticated weapons that make a mockery of the ones lumbered by men of the Nigeria Police, killing, maiming, kidnapping and generally making life a misery for everyone, especially the affluent. Those who have amassed wealth cannot even openly enjoy same because of the fear of attack by armed robbers and kidnappers. Those who have unfairly benefited from the nation’s commonwealth are the ones that cry the loudest about their plight.
But at the root of the pervading insecurity is the insensitivity of the privileged members of the society who personalise the people’s commonwealth. Had they imbibed the instruction of Jesus about treating others as they would want to be treated, they would have refrained themselves from dipping their hands into the kitty and would not have depleted the common patrimony for their selfish reasons. Thus, developmental projects would have been executed, infrastructure would not have been destroyed, companies would not have been forced to close down or relocate and there would have been employment for the youth.
This Christmas is an opportunity for us to ponder on this maxim of Jesus and mend our ways so that we could have a better society.
But interestingly, every religion has a version of the golden rule.
In Islam, it is put thus; ‘No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself.’ Sunnah.
Judaism puts it this way, ‘What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellowman. This is the entire Law; all the rest is commentary.’ Talmud, Shabbat 3id.
Confucianism says, ‘Do not do to others what you would not like yourself. Then there will be no resentment against you, either in the family or in the state.’ Analects 12:2.
In Buddhism, they say, ‘Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.’ Udana Varga 5,1.
In Hinduism, it is ‘This is the sum of duty; do naught onto others what you would not have them do unto you.’ Mahabharata 5,1517.
‘Regard your neighbour’s gain as your gain, and your neighbour’s loss as your own loss,’ is the way Taoism puts it.
And for Zoroastrians, it is, ‘That nature alone is good which refrains from doing another whatsoever is not good for itself.’
This says something to me; the focus of every religion is a better society. The question then is, since most of us identify with one religion or the other, why is our society the way it is?
Wishing you a merry Christmas.