The Catholic Bishop of Nsukka Diocese, Most Rev. Godfrey Igwebuike Onah, has urged Nigerians, especially the Christians, to use the occasion of the Christmas celebration and let their Christian light shine brightly, warning that a dark cloud hangs over Nigeria.
The Father-Bishop, as he is fondly called, gave the statement in a Christmas message to Catholic faithful at the St. Theresa’s Cathedral, Nsukka, Enugu state.
According to him, although some Nigerians may be having a very bad time because of the gloomy nature of things in the country, the situation is not without hope as he assures that with the light which Christ Jesus has brought to the world, that Nigerians will overcome every challenge facing them.
The prelate said, although a dark cloud may be hanging over Nigeria, that the light that came with Jesus Christ in this festive season is the type “which no darkness in Nigeria or in our personal lives can overcome.”
He urged Nigerian Christians to “do more than just lament and wail about the darkness in our country. We should rather see the darkness as an invitation to be light.”
The message reads thus:
«O holy night the stars are brightly shining it is the night of the dear Saviour’s birth».
The Carols fill the air. Colourful decorations are everywhere. There is remarkable increase in movements and business. Christmas is once again here. We thank God who, in his infinite mercy, offers us yet another chance to celebrate this unique feast of love, peace and joy – in spite of everything.
It is, no doubt, sometimes very difficult for many Nigerians to find good reasons to celebrate. With each passing year, there seems to be more reasons to mourn than to celebrate. Apart from the tendency in humans to always focus more on what they lack than on what they have (which is part of the natural human striving for self-transcendence), the situation is indeed gloomy in our country.
The reasons are known to everybody and there is no need for a catalogue. As we prepare for Christmas this year, our President has, in all honesty, informed us that things will still get worse. A dark cloud seems to be hanging over the country and the drumbeats of the 2019 general elections only heighten the tension. For many (very many) Nigerians, the night is indeed dark, very dark!
But this dark night is also a holy night. The words of consolation proclaimed by the prophet Isaiah to suffering Israelites centuries ago is being proclaimed today to suffering and dispirited Nigerians with fresh vigour: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone. You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing… For a child is born to us” (Is 9:1-5).
If to the Israelites the proclamation was a promise, to us, Christians in Nigeria today, it is a reassuring reminder that the Word, which in the beginning was with God, is God and the source of all created things, now dwells among us and we have seen his glory!(Jn 1:1-14). Jesus, God-made-Man, Emmanuel (God-among-us), is that light of the world (Jn 8:12), which no darkness in Nigeria or in our personal lives can overcome (Jn 1:5). In fact, the darker the night, the brighter his light shines: “O holy night, the stars are brightly shining…”
The night is dark indeed. Yet in this dark night the message of hope, peace, love and joy shines brightly. Jesus is in our midst and has touched our lives. That touch illumines our lives and enables us to illuminate our fellow wayfarers. Nigerian Christians should therefore do more than just lament and wail about the darkness in our country. We should rather see the darkness as an invitation to be light. He who has made us his privileged associates by making us, along with him, light of the world, invites us to let our light so shine in Nigeria that others will, through our witnessing, see the way and give glory to our heavenly Father (Mt 5:14-16).
While EmperorAugustus was fine-tuning his political strategies and briefing his collaborators in the regions under his control; while the Jewish religious leaders were lost in superficial ritualism and theological niceties; while the common people were groping in pitch darkness with no one to offer them guidance and direction…the Saviour was being born. That same Saviour is being born today in the darkness of our society. While the political gladiators are outdoing one another in deceiving and manipulating a distressed population; while public office holders at all levels are perfecting their art in corruption, irrespective of all the grandstanding about the anti-corruption fight; while many religious leaders (including some Christian preachers) have been sucked up by the pursuit of material wealth and fame… the Saviour is being born in the hearts of many Nigerian Christians. These Christians, like bright stars, reflecting the light of Christ, illuminate Nigeria!
I have said it before and it bears repeating that Christians in Nigeria hold the key to the progress and development of this country. If we do not play our role as light, especially in public life, we should not expect that light to shine.
My Dear Brothers and Sisters, the light has to shine in our hearts and in our lives. By living out our Christian vocation, we make the light continue to shine brightly in Nigeria. This is a duty every true Christian owes to God and to our country and we should not be discouraged by how dark the night may be.
The diffusion of digital photography in our time should not make us forget the importance of darkrooms in the development of good images. And we are images of God! Let the darkness in Nigeria today be turned into an opportunity. That way, the dark night becomes a holy night.
Through the celebration of Christmas, may the loving-kindness of our God visit us like the dawn from on high. May he who gives light to those in darkness, those who dwell in the shadow of fear and death, guide us into the way of peace as we enter the New Year, 2019.