June 14, 2024
Reflections / Sermons

2022 CHRISTMAS MESSAGE: CHRISTMAS, LET THE JOY OF CHRIST’S BIRTH REKINDLE OUR HOPE

2022 CHRISTMAS MESSAGE

CHRISTMAS: LET THE JOY OF CHRIST’S BIRTH REKINDLE OUR HOPE

By Most Rev. Dr. Peter Olukayode Odetoyinbo
Bishop, Catholic Diocese of Abeokuta
20/12/22

Beloved people of God, glory be God for the opportunity to witness another Christmas. I like to specially wish you and your family merry Christmas and happy new year in advance. This year’s Christmas falls around the time when we are preparing for the 25th anniversary of our Diocese. It has been God all the way for us since the inauguration of our Diocese in 1998 and we are grateful to God for choosing us to be part of the spiritual, pastoral and physical development of Abeokuta Diocese. This celebration will take place on the 25th and 26th January, 2023 when our Diocese will officially clock 25years. We therefore use this medium to thank you for your immense support for the Church and for keeping the faith thus far, we encourage you all to be part of this celebration and pray God to continue to grant you the grace of final perseverance in your journey of faith.

The season of Christmas for which the Church has prepared us in the last weeks of Advent brings to the fore once again the mystery of the Incarnation by which Jesus Christ became part of our human history to redeem us. It is the celebration of the birth of our Saviour; the word which was with God at the beginning and was made flesh to dwell among us and illuminate the darkness our world (Jn 1:1-12). It comes always as a moment of joy as we celebrate with one another and share the joy of the birth of the Prince of Peace and Wonderful-Counsellor (Is. 9:6). His birth was the fulfilment of prophesies and the confirmation of the love of God the Father to humanity; a love that was evident in creation when God created us in His own image and likeness and empowered us to exercise dominion over the works of His hands (Gen 1:28). Even though, sin and death came to the world through the disobedience of man, God sent His only begotten son to rescue us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved son in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Col 1: 13-14).

We are therefore filled with joy as we commemorate the birth of Jesus and celebrate His presence with us always as individuals, families, communities and nation because His name is ‘Emmanuel’ – ‘God with us’ (Mt 1:23). No doubt, sin brought about separation between God and humanity and affected our fellowship with God but through the birth of Jesus into the world, our restoration to holiness was kindled. Hence, the Incarnation also brought the hope of redemption.

The Blessed Virgin Mary that we acknowledge as the cause of our joy testified to this in the Magnificat as she expressed her joy in the greatness of God because He looked upon the humiliation of His servant and conferred blessedness on her from generation to generation (Lk. 1:46-47). Elizabeth was not left out as she expressed to the Blessed Virgin Mary how the baby in her womb leapt for joy at the sound of her greeting (Lk. 1:43). The shepherds on the countryside in the fields keeping guard over their sheep at night heard from the angel about the news of great joy; a joy to be shared by the whole people (Lk. 2:7-10). Hence, the Incarnation heralded a new era of joy and hope as Jesus became the cause of joy to all we believed and welcomed Him. The joy of the Lord was evident in those who recognized Him as Saviour and Redeemer as He healed the sick, cast out demons and forgave sin and brought light to the darkness of the world. However, Jesus brought joy to the world at His first coming to earth as a baby, and He will bring joy to the world when He comes again to reign as King of kings and Lord and lords (Rev 19:16).

The Lord has come in the person of Jesus and He is always with us, so let us receive Him as the King of our lives and world. Let every heart prepare him a room by repenting of all unrighteousness in the last year and embracing a better attitude and lifestyle in the New Year. That is what we are called to celebrate at this Yuletide. John the Baptist heralded His coming and preached repentance for those that desired to be part of the kingdom of God. Our situation in Nigeria is not different. If we desire a new Nigeria then it must come with new orientation and attitudinal change. We all think of changing Nigeria but let one of us begin by first changing his or her attitude then Nigeria will be a better place. Imagine how kidnapping, bribery, vote-buying, ballot box snatching, forgery, insurgency, banditry, robbery and other related vices would become things of the past if everyone of us decides to embrace a ‘change of attitude’ as we approach the New Year.

A change of attitude and orientation particularly as we prepare for the general elections is our clarion call. Let us reject all forms of vote selling and incentives by politicians who have turned our willpower to merchandise! Do not sell your vote for pecuniary gains! Let us join hands to save Nigeria by electing credible leaders that will salvage things from getting worse! It is not enough to desire the joy of a new Nigeria, there is a corresponding responsibility. Our desired future will only emerge when we go out determined to cast our votes for the candidates we believe can deliver on the dividends of democracy and help fulfil our dream of a prosperous nation. As a reminder, go and collect your permanent voters’ cards and vote wisely in the coming general elections. I have said this at various fora and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria has reiterated this to us over and over again.

We must therefore cast off the darkness of the night and embrace the new light of the day through the renewing power of the birth of Jesus. As we prepare for the celebration of Christmas, let us be reminded of Christ’s second coming when he shall come to judge the living and the dead. Are we constantly getting ready by our way of life? Our works of charity to one another should reflect this reality. Let our joy therefore be made manifest as we share with our brothers and sisters this season and always.

I wish you all a merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year 2023.

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