Be Comforted, Your Time of Bondage is Over (Is. 40, 1-2) being a Carol message by Fr. Emmanuel Faweh Kazah

 

Be Comforted, Your Time of Bondage is Over (Is. 40, 1-2)

Being a Christmas message given at the Mission Schools’ Christmas Carols, at Sancta Maria Model Secondary School, Kwoi, on 11th December 2018
Fr. Emmanuel Faweh Kazah

I want thank the Administrator of the Catholic Diocese of Kafanchan, Very Rev. Fr. Joseph Abba Biliyok who asked me to speak on his behalf at this function and the Organizers of this year’s Christmas carol who without ado have endorsed my choice as the harbinger of the Christmas message. This indeed is a privilege and it is one that I don’t take lightly. Dear friends, permit me to stand on the existing protocols.
I am not here to give you a message that is totally alien or reel out information that is totally strange. I am here rather to remind us of the things that we are very familiar with; that Mary’s boy child Jesus Christ was born on Christmas day and that his entry into our history is aimed not only at comforting us but at ending the reign of terror that is hoisted over us. At Jesus’ birth, eternity enters into time, divinity takes up humanity and humanity takes up divinity in order to ends humanity’s misery and pain. His birth was the game changer in the continuum of events that spell out our economy of salvation. Yes, if He were not born, He wouldn’t have suffered and died and if He had not died He wouldn’t have resurrected and if he had not resurrected our hope of salvation wouldn’t have been guaranteed. I will attempt to situate my message in the context of the theme of this year’s carol: Be Comforted, the Time of your Bondage is at an End.

He dwells in our Carols

Carols were first sung in Europe thousands of years ago, but these were not Christmas Carols. They were pagan songs, sung at the Winter Solstice celebrations as people danced round stone circles. The Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year, usually taking place around 22nd December. The word Carol actually means dance or a song of praise and joy! Carols used to be written and sung during all four seasons (winter, spring, summer and autumn), but only the tradition of singing them at Christmas has really survived.
Early Christians took over the pagan solstice celebrations for Christmas and gave people Christian songs to sing instead of pagan ones.

This was changed by St. Francis of Assisi when, in 1223, he started his Nativity Plays in Italy. The people in the plays sang songs or ‘canticles’ that told the story during the plays. Sometimes, the choruses of these new carols were in Latin; but normally they were all in a language that the people watching the play could understand and join in! The new carols spread to France, Spain, Germany, other European countries, the African continent, Nigeria, Kaduna State and indeed Kafanchan.

We too, like the people who celebrated the first carols have sang songs that have lifted up our souls and have danced dances that denote that despite the myriads of challenges that have encompassed us all about, joy will come in the morning. We will remain joyful because Jeremiah in his prophecy tells us, “He is in our midst” (Jer. 14, 9). Notice the verb “is”. It means He is ever present, in good times and bad. There is no beginning nor end. God is! He is always in our midst. Knowing that we are not alone is quite comforting. And if He is in our midst who can be against us. The passage from Jeremiah tells us something about our relationship with God. “Do not desert us, O Lord.” We need God. Our whole life comes from Him and our whole life is tailored towards him. We need God to find God. If he “deserts us” then we stop living by the power and the authority of his name. When we sing praises we make God’s presence more concrete in our midst because, He dwells in our praises, He dwells in our worship songs.

Celebrating Christmas in an Insecure Nigeria

Today, we are few days from the general election in 2019 but the statistics have shown that the Government of PMB has failed most Nigerians. The Boko Haram that PMB’s Government has for the umpteenth time declared through its spokes person as being technically defeated is still technically destroying people’s lives and property in the northeastern Nigeria. While we are trying to brave the wanton destruction of lives and property by Boko Haram, we just woke up like from a dreamless slumber to the reality of Fulani herdsmen terrorists group. This group is considered as one of the deadliest terrorists groups not only in the West African sub region but also in the world at large. While we are still nursing the festered and badly putrefied wounds of Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen terrorist group we are being faced with another phenomenon that stabs right into the heart of the wounds that are gradually becoming a ganglion: the kidnap phenomenon.
In the midst of the insecurity challenge that descends on our nation like a black pall, the citizens, deprived of a better disposition to the happenstance that portends gloom have become cynical, abhorrent to the status quo, disobedient, critical and at times rebellious. In short, “there is meaninglessness in philosophy, insecurity in polity, chaos in politics, corruption in economy, immorality in society, frustration in art”. The height of the citizen’s frustration in terms of the security challenges in Nigeria was summarized in the words of Gen Theophilus Danjuma: You must rise to protect yourselves from these people, if you depend on the armed forces for protection, you will all die one by one. The ethnic cleansing must stop now, otherwise, Somalia will be a child’s play. I ask everyone of you to be on the alert and defend your country, defend your territory, defend your state because you have nowhere else to go. The armed forces are not neutral, they are conniving with the armed bandits that are killing people. Almost every song, every piece of art that is produced in Nigeria today has the signature of the depth of Nigeria’s citizens’ frustration. The annoyance and resentment of some citizens against the government of PMB has reached its crescendo because, it seems that at the helm we have a man who seems to lack the intellectual and managerial wherewithal to stem the tide of the ugly trend that is threatening to undermine our corporate existence as a nation. Some are already crying, “bring back our GEJ”. The PMB’s government, at least from its body language, seems to run out options on the best way to address the security situation in the nation.

The Frustration of the Citizens

The incompetence of our political leaders, the incessant decimation of innocent citizen by the terrorists groups that ply their unholy and acrimonious trade in Nigeria has stirred a loud cry of perestroika from many quarters. Many have called for the reinvigoration of the dreams of the founding fathers of our nation. There is almost a unanimous cry from across board that incessantly calls and without any sign of abetment for the obliteration of the administrative inefficiency that seems to characterize PMB’s administration.
Some have become so frustrated that they prefer to take the deadly journey to Europe that takes them through the throat perching and mouth-drying odyssey through the deadly and arid Sahara Desert. They are not afraid to go through Libya where they risked being used as source of collecting essential organs that are in high demand in the pharmaceutical world; nor the highly risky voyage across the Mediterranean sea on inflammable boats that most often than not capsize before they make it across. Some of these Nigerians who sometimes out of frustration have decided to exit from the nation have piqued: “we prefer to die trying to get to Europe than to submit ourselves to death in the cold hands of Boko Haram, Fulani herdsmen and hunger”.

Jesus’ Birth Ends Our Time of Bondage

The insecurity, unemployment, hunger and frustration of the Nigerian citizens speak volume. They are indices that indicate that we are indeed in bondage. There are so many today that have since thrown in the towel and are just waiting for the day that they will make their exit. We too like the Israelites who were taken into exile have become weary and despondent because of the ugly situations that surround us. My dear friends, Jesus Christ who is about to be born in the manger of her of our hearts is telling us not to lose heart because the days of our trouble are numbered (cf. Is. 40, 2). When Jesus is truly born in our heart at Christmas, he will remove the cause of our trouble; because we shall be divinized and we shall love one another with the same love God has loved us to have sent His only begotten son to set us free from the dominion sin, Satan and suffering. The birth of Christ will level the mountain of insecurity and will fill the valley of administrative recklessness in our nation. It will reestablish the kingdom of justice, peace and love in our nation. Our nation shall go back to its original state just the way God has contemplated it: a land of plenty, a land of great and resilient people, a land where the strong and the rich look after the weak and poor.

Conclusion

Christmas has a language. It is a language of love; a language spoken by Christ Jesus. It is a language of choice. God chose us, and because He chose us, He became one of us. The beauty of the language is revealed when He chose to love us not when we were perfect, but when were at our worst. This language communicates love Himself. It personifies love and give it a whole new meaning. Thus, to love is not just to do nor wish, but to actually become the best of oneself for oneself, for others and for God just as Christ did when he became the best in the mess of the manger. There is richness in the symbol of the manger. It is like seeing the star in the clouds. The shepherds ran in to see, the wise men worshiped, all because He loved. May we learn to love one another just as the baby in the swaddling clothes has loved us, so that through our individual and corporate choices we will steer this nation out of the waters of political and economic bondage. Merry Christmas and thanks for listening!

 

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