BETWEEN CHRISTMAS AND XMAS: THE SEARCH FOR THE IDEAL CELEBRATION REV.FR.BONIFACE NKEM ANUSIEM PhD

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One fateful Christmas season some years ago something a very significant thing happened in a family. A mother came back from Christmas shopping and was welcomed by her eight years old son Daniel and her much younger daughter Jane. The children were so excited and eager to see what their mum bought. She however asked them to allow her to freshen up and rest a little before unveiling the Christmas goodies.

The unveiling eventually came and the children were handy and active. There were gifts for their daddy, for their mummy, for their aunties and uncles, for their grandpas and grandmas, for their family friends and even for their cat and dog. Eventually the shopping bag was empty!  Looking at the empty shopping bag, Daniel became sad and moody. Discovering Daniel’s sudden change, his mother became worried and asked him what was wrong with him. While trying to disclose his displeasure, Daniel broke down crying but his mother managed to hear him say that she bought gifts for everyone and forgot to buy something for Jesus Christ on his birthday!

This might seem like a little boy’s thought but every attentive mind will find deep meaning in the little Daniel’s displeasure. Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ which historically took place more than two thousand years ago. Put simply, Christmas marks the birthday of Jesus Christ. It is not really an overstatement that many things about the celebration of Christmas have gone wrong beginning from the nomenclature “CHRISTMAS!”

Our contemporary human society is filled with so much aptitude to shortcuts may be with the prevalence of computer culture. Consequently we discover so much abbreviation in almost everything. Unfortunately God and things associated with Him are regrettably abbreviated and “shortcutted” to the extent that real meanings and values are lost. It is no longer strange in our times to see “G” representing God, “IJN” representing “In Jesus Name”. It is on this same platform that Christmas has been abbreviated and “shortcutted” to “XMAS”. Looking at this “XMAS” as a designation for the annual Christian festival, one discovers that Christ has been removed from the celebration. Consequently there is an anomie whereby there is “Mass without Christ”.

Xmas to my mind is a reversal of Christmas. On the platform of XMAS many people celebrate themselves instead of Christ. On the platform of XMAS there is so much commercialisation and consumerism. On the platform of XMAS Christ is robbed of his celebration and being given a second place, and even dropped at the unproductive background. Very much like some people who come to the birthday or christening of a child  only to attend to the food, drinks and meet people without encountering or even knowing the gender of the child-celebrant. On the platform of XMAS people celebrate every other thing apart from Christ and a fitting encounter with him. Christmas without Christ is actually XMAS and worthless.

From the entire narrative of the Nativity, I wish to single out the report in Luke (2:7). It says: “And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn”. (KJV). I wish to concentrate on the latter part of that verse which says “because there was no room for them in the inn”. Upon a deeper introspection this passage speaks volume from that historic moment and in relation to our day and age. Put in another way, it tells us that the Saviour had no room among the people he came to save at that time; nobody was kind and charitable enough to give him a space! This situation could have been a very tearful one for Mary and Joseph. In retrospect, I can see them moving from one house to another, from one inn to another, from one location to another and the reply was all still the same “we have no room!” “We are all booked up!”

 The situation is still relevant today; even more than before. “Can the Saviour still find a room in us?” Like in the story that began this reflection, most people have no place for Christ in their list or agenda this season. With the senseless search and grabbing of every available material possession at this time. In spite of Isaac Watts’ advice, many people are still finding it hard to MAKE A ROOM FOR HIM; even a small foot space is difficult among so many people basically because they are operating on the platform of XMAS not CHRISTMAS.

The search for and celebration of the ideal Christmas is most needful at this time. We should not be too quick to accept and operate with the principles and agendas of the world which starts and ends in commercialism, consumerism and ultimately mundane craving. The ideal celebration is the one has Christ at its centre. The ideal celebration is the one that seeks to bridge gaps and remove obstacles. The ideal Christmas to my mind is the one that celebrates righteous living and not evil. The ideal Christmas is the one that is more spiritual than just religious. The ideal Christmas is the one that celebrates the poor not the wealthy and affluent.

          As we celebrate the Christmas let us have Jesus Christ as the focus of our celebration; let us bear in mind that the celebration in not ours but rather his. As we eat and make merry this Christmas let us acknowledge the fact that nearly one billion people all over the world will go to bed this Christmas day without food (the reason why I will eat only once later today in solidarity with the hungry at Christmas). As we wear our colourful and expensive clothes and other accessories let us remember that some people somewhere could make a big celebration out of our old clothes, shoes and other things. As we enjoy our beautifully decorated homes let us remember that many people are out there in squalors exposed to cold and heat as the Christmas celebration heightens. As we take our friends and children out to parks and other exotic places, let us remember that there are many children in orphanages and homes for the poor who would sit in there as the Christmas day comes and goes. As we power up ourselves for the celebration of Christmas in full health, let us remember that there are so many people in various hospitals lying down there on their sick beds as the Christmas day unfolds and recedes. As we move around today visiting families and friends let us remember that there are people in prison most of whom are suffering for crimes they did not commit and who will not have the privilege to move around as they are in chains!

          There is an ingenious and clarion call on us to do a reassessment of what we are celebrating to know if it is CHRISTMAS or just XMAS. New shoes and clothes, new cars and buildings, new friends and other things are not bad in themselves but they should not take the place of Jesus Christ in our celebration. Christmas is about Christ and it will be fair enough for us to give him his place from the start of the day which should begin with a Mass; the Mass of Christ (Christmas). Let us not repeat the mistake of Daniel’s mother by not getting a gift for then new born King. Finally let us be conscious of the fact that without Christ there is no CHRISTMAS at best we have worthless XMAS.

Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

Fr. Bonnie

(fatherbonny@hotmail.com)

 

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