June 15, 2024
Reflections / Sermons

GOD IS GIVING NIGERIANS A FRESH OPPORTUNITY IN 2023

God is giving Nigerians a fresh opportunity in 2023

2022 Christmas Message of Most Rev. Michael Ukpong, Bishop of Umuahia Diocese 

Christmas is once again here and we rejoice to celebrate with Christians all over the world, the mystical season of the birth of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. It is the birthday of birthdays and the manifestation of the mother of all miracles. Because in the Incarnation of the Word of God the infinite and invisible God made Himself finite and visible. He whom the universe cannot contain made Himself so tiny that He could be carried in the womb of the Virgin and be born as a helpless baby, totally dependent on the care of His chosen parents, still He did not cease to be God with all the infinite qualities of His being.

God took the trouble to do all that because of love, the love He has for His creation, especially humanity, which he created out of love and as expression of His almightiness. Satan out of envy marred the beauty and goodness of man created in the image and likeness of God, by making man to sin against God. As St. Paul says, the wages of sin is death (Rm 6:23). God did not abandon man forever but out of love and mercy decided to save man and restore him to Himself. This will of God to save man from eternal death necessitated the incarnation, for man cannot pay the price of his offence, according to Psalm 49:7-8, no one can ever redeem himself or pay his own ransom to God, the price for his redemption is beyond him. But then, God as God cannot pay the death penalty for man’s sin, because He is immortal. In His infinite wisdom and love God conceived the idea of uniting Himself with the nature of mortal man to be able to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves; and so, God took flesh.

Jesus, the Incarnate Son of God, himself witnesses to this fact in the Gospel of John chapter three verse sixteen (Jn 3:16) “God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life.” The Church affirms this when she says in the Nicene Creed that “For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven.” The above statement of Jesus shows that the salvation God gives is not forced on anybody. One has to accept it freely. One of the ways in which we are like God is the freedom to choose what we do and what we avoid doing. Sin is only possible when one is totally free to decide what one does. In the same way salvation, which is gratuitous, is accepted or rejected freely.

Therefore, to believe in Jesus, the Son of God, given to us in order not to perish but have eternal life means: accepting and putting into practice the teachings of Jesus (cf. Lk 6:47-48; Mt 7:21-22). God loves us and has given us his Son to save us from the evil and difficulties we have created for ourselves. Jesus is willing even today to save us from our ills but we have to believe him and cooperate with him to make the salvation He gives possible. He has given us the example to follow. Though He was in form of God, He did not count equality with God a thing to grasp. He emptied Himself to assume the condition of a slave, and became as men are; and being as all men are, he was humbler yet, even to the point of accepting death, death on a cross (Phil 2:6-8). Should we put our selfish pride aside and humble ourselves to be servants of each other, our country will cease to be the jungle it is. We should be ready to make sacrifices for the common good. It is our collective selfishness that has kept us down on the ground and neutralised the salvation God has offered us so far.

God is giving us a fresh opportunity in 2023 to be obedient to His command of selflessness in order to choose rightly a leader who will lead us to the promised-land Nigeria is supposed to be. Let us not sell the opportunity for a few thousands of Naira or other worthless gifts that cannot bring us the better Nigeria all of us are hoping for. God has given us a saviour, let us accept him and avoid perishing forever.

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