The true light that gives all people light, Christmas Day 25th December 2017

Friends, the prophets foretold that the Saviour would be born of a virgin, and her name was Mary. There is time when everything God has said in his word is fulfilled. The Lord visits us and lives among us. This is the wonder we celebrate at Christmas. God who descends to our lowliness, lifts, transforms, cleans and sanctifies us. The day must always come to an end. Darkness gives way to the morning sun. The Lord, in his day, will save the world, purify our spirit, soul and body from weakness, from all evil, unbelief, despair, lethargy, indifference, inertia, and sin.

Last Friday I was at Backaplan and I saw a lot of people who went from one store to another and acted as if nothing was of importance to Christmas other than going shopping. Then I thought to myself that if I were not a priest, I would most likely be like these people who shop and celebrate without understanding why they do so. Jesus Christ, the cause of Christmas, the centrepiece of the history of the world and of the lives of every person is far away from many of these people. Christ is completely taken out of Christmas.  There is a growing phobia of Jesus Christ among many in the world. It is tragic that many families in Sweden gather and eat and drink, give and receive presents without understanding why they do this. In other words, they suffer from Christ Phobia, Christian Phobia and Church Phobia. Indifference and sometimes hatred characterize most attitudes to those who take Christian life seriously. They lose family members, co-workers and friends who think they have become abnormal. We have made ourselves strangers to the word of God. The world is dark, only God is the true light. He guides us through the night to his kingdom. We know that the mysteries of Christ are not yet fully completed and perfected. In Jesus person they are finished, but not in us and in His Church. In us, Christ wants to realize his human life, his birth, in his hidden life and in his resurrection.

There is always the risk of reducing Christmas to Christmas atmosphere, for example by taking the whole family to Christmas at Liseberg, which is appreciated by children. Most children like everything Liseberg has to offer; roller coaster, Christmas bazaar, chocolate wheel and they enjoy the whole atmosphere there. Many families think it's more fun to visit Liseberg than to go to Church and praise and worship God for everything he gives us in our lives, that he has come to redeem us from hopelessness and from the power of death, temptations and dangers, slavery under sin.

Christ's teaching is truly a source of light for all who receive him. But it was above all through his actions and meetings with people that his great goodness manifested itself. Countless people came to Christ in the dark and went bathing in light. Christ's teaching gives light to people. His light continues to shine for all who believe in Him and follow Him. Christ's light shines amid crises, disasters, trials, worries, and various kinds of challenges. No darkness can overcome this light that Christ gives to those who approach his love. Christ's light comes with his healing power. It makes us free and gives us life in its fullness (John 10:10). The light of Christ is the brother of the poor, the friend of sinners, the defender of the oppressed, the refugees, of all those persecuted, the doctors of the sick. Through his birth and holy life, through his mercy, love, forgiveness, healing power, suffering and cross, presence and advent, he saves from all evil, sin and guilt, temptation and fall, and from eternal death. Those who follow Christ will surely have the light of life. Anyone who follows you Lord will have the light of life! He who receives him never walks in the darkness. Welcome to your light. Let's allow all of creation experience the peace of Christmas. Let's share this peace and joy that Christmas brings with all people.

God is light ... no darkness exists in Him "writes John in his first letter (1: 5). He has called us from the dark to his wonderful light "(1 Pet 2: 9). Jesus' advent can become reality in our lives only if we really receive him like Mary and let him enlighten our darkness. If we do not live in Christ then we will not notice any of Christmas's grace and joy, one of God's light and warmth. The world's tragedy is that it does not receive the light. But this is not surprising since darkness from the beginning resisted the light. Yet the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1: 5).

Our desire to receive him grows the more his birth approached. Our prayer before him rises as a welcome sacrifice. In advent time, God enlightens our dark hearts before His Son's advent, making us not tired or weakened in anticipation of His comfort and healing. It is sin that creates a gap between us and God. Jesus clears the obstacles that sin has left in our path. If we allow mercy to work, we can be renewed so that we find the freedom and security of God and hurry to meet him with burning torches of faith. In the event where God is involved there is neither bad luck nor chance. Like Joseph and Mary found a solution to their challenges, the Church with the Spirit's direction will also find the way the Lord wants it to wander.

The gospel that is expected to be received with joy is ironically in this time has now become something of irritation and upsets many people. Unfortunately, many in our time celebrate Christmas with fewer or no religious elements. Even though we would argue that Christmas celebrations has its origin in pagan festivals, we should not forget that the events celebrated were religious in character. Celebrating Christmas without any religious content is therefore a contradiction. Christmas has changed our concept and perception of time and space. Christ is the lost link between these two. With Jesus' advent, a new timetable began, and the meaning of the space has also changed because it is he who fills space and time with meaning.

This year, the Jews celebrated Hanukkah from Tuesday, December 12 through December 20, 2017. It is a candle celebration and Memorial Day of the rededication of the temple. It is also a time to give and receive gifts. Christmas is the time of giving and receiving. We give what we can in joy, encouragement and hope. It is my prayer that the Lord comes and enlightens us with his light of knowledge when we get lost in the darkness of our ignorance. Money is for sharing with others and what can be more important than using it to help God's Word reach as many people as possible this Christmas? Lack of generosity closes us within ourselves and then we just think of ourselves. This is the primary cause of poverty in the world not lack money or resources.

Nobody can do everything, but everyone can do something, that's exactly what this time wants to encourage us to. Anyone can make a difference. Should Christmas end with further lighting of homes and streets, or will it chase away greed, indifference, faithlessness, envy, hatred and all the negative things in our lives so that Jesus can truly be born into our hearts?

It is my prayer and hope that everyone in this age will meet the care and warmth of fellow human beings. Whatever happens to the giving and receiving between us, there is the gift that is the very cause of the Christmas celebrations, the gift of the son of God.  Therefore, let Christmas be a feast for receiving the infant Jesus, "a child born to us." Then it will truly be a Merry Christmas. Chikezie Onuoha MSP

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