This day in Christendom is celebrated as the birth day of our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ. It is a feast central to the Christian liturgical year. Preceding it is the season of Advent or the Nativity Fast and initiates the season of Christmastide which also includes an Octave. The traditional Christmas narrative, the Nativity of Jesus, delineated in the New Testament says that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, in accordance with messianic prophecies; when Joseph and Mary arrived in the city, the inn had no room and so they were offered a stable where the Christ Child was soon born, with angels proclaiming this news to shepherds who then disseminated the message furthermore. It is a fulfilment of the promise God made to King David that his descendant, a branch from the root of Jesse, will sit on his throne forever.
Today, most Christians celebrate on December 25 in the Gregorian calendar, which has been adopted almost universally. However, some Eastern Christian Churches celebrate Christmas on December 25 of the older Julian calendar, which currently corresponds to January 7 in the Gregorian calendar, the day after the Western Christian Church celebrates the Epiphany (the day the Three Wise Men came from the East, directed by His Star, visited Jesus in a manger in Bethlehem with gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. It is also known as the Manifestation of Jesus).
This is not a disagreement over the date of Christmas as such, but rather a preference of which calendar should be used to determine the day that is December 25. The universal church also declared the 12 days between Christmas and Epiphany to be one unified festal cycle thus giving significance to both the Western and Eastern dates of Christmas. Moreover, for Christians, the belief that God came into the world in the form of man to atone for the sins of humanity, rather than the exact birth date, is considered to be the primary purpose in celebrating Christmas.
The celebratory customs associated in various countries with Christmas have a mix of pre-Christian, Christian, and secular themes and origins. Popular modern customs of the holiday include gift giving, completing an Advent calendar or Advent wreath, Christmas music and carolling. Because gift-giving and many other aspects of the Christmas festival involve heightened economic activity, the holiday has become a significant event and a key sales period for retailers and businesses. The economic impact of Christmas has grown steadily over the past few centuries in many regions of the world.
This has given rise to the erroneous hedonistic perception of the feast that is supposed to be strictly Christian. It has become a period which success is marked by its material attachments as governments declare public holiday and also provide an opportunity for the addition of other incentives put together to make the season enjoyable. It has become a period that economic circumstances have become a major yardstick for measuring its success. That may explain why many go to any length to celebrate it. This includes doing, in some cases, the unthinkable in other not to be left out in the mad rush for a celebration that has almost been stripped of its spiritual import. Regardless of the fact that Christ is the central theme of the message of Christmas, the reason for the season, yet many deliberately ignore this significant aspect of the period in their vain pursuit of the mundane.
Disappointingly, this period of the feast of the Prince of Peace witnesses worst levels of crime and other anti-social behaviours. In the frenzied urge to ‘meet up’ many actually lose their lives in accidents that are mostly avoidable.
But in our opinion, Christmas ought to be a period for fellow feeling and the sharing of love. A time to remember the poor and lowly following the example of the Magi who brought gifts to the Child Jesus in his modest crib in a manger in Bethlehem.
In a message to mark the day, President Muhammadu Buhari, noted that the commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ was an important opportunity for Nigerians to show love to one another and encourage unity by spending quality time with friends, families and the less-privileged. Even more significantly, the President said, it is an occasion to draw inspiration from the exemplary lifestyle, teachings of Jesus Christ who constantly stood for what is right, true and honest so as to bear in mind that Christmas, as a festival of peace, joy, healing, hope and fulfilment, kindles great expectations in the heart, irrespective of the challenges of the moment.
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