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Opinions of Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Columnist: Abugri, George Sydney

Our stolen Christmas

By George Sydney Abugri

There was the usual Nine Lessons and Carols Festival on the forecourt of State House last weekend. Dignitaries and top public officials read from scripture in between carols. I contemplated with mild interest how involved with the task at hand some of these people of power and authority were, at the spiritual level.

No one expects to hear hymns and sermons first thing on entering a public office, but then, you cannot also help but notice from the conduct of people within, that the Spirit of God does not usually appear to be moving through the spaces in the corridors of power and authority. What you do sense in most offices of very high authority, is the awesomeness of the earthly power of men over men!

Watching some politicians reading from scripture on Wednesday night, I dared to hope that the Spirit of God will be felt more powerfully in the conduct of government business and the personal conduct and public utterances of Christian politicians, beginning from next January.

As many people in power live the life of high public office, exer¬cising far-reaching authority, they tend to lock up God in a box. They keep the box outside the domain of the secular life, and then let Him out in times of personal trouble, on Sundays and at Christmas.

That is why it is my miserable duty to ruin the Christmas party for some people. The angle of thought and vocabulary of discourse on the matter are not going to be particularly pleasant. I am hoping to be able to get away with it, because at Christmas, I expect everyone to be pleasantly dis¬posed and tolerant of other people’s views.

Christmas has become a season of hypocrisy. Caring people of compassion and love of neighbour, who quite mysteriously have remained invisible all year round, will suddenly materialise in flesh and blood.

They will fall into one big parade of benevolent and caring do-gooders, ready to put a smile on the faces of the poor, sick, desper¬ately needy, orphans and the dis¬abled. These will receive generous donations of food, clothing and other gifts. Some will even be treated to some real partying.

Imagine society having the power to put smiles the often glum and grim faces of those suffering from the distress of sickness, want and worry, and yet withholding the exercise of that power everyday of the year except one!

At Christmas, many of us ¬pre¬tend to be happy. People suddenly become more God-conscious, kind, pleasant and exceptionally nice to each other. Why cannot people be nice to each other and generous to the needy every day? Why must they wait till Christmas?

Just wait till the first week of January, and all the kind, caring and pleasant people we see at Christmas are usually nowhere in evidence. We would have returned to our old vindictive, self-ish, uncaring selves, prone to treating other people badly, as we greedily pursue our interests.

Why are you griping this way when there is really nothing to gripe about. What is wrong with people showing some love, compassion and generosity at Christmas? There is absolutely nothing wrong on first thought but consider this:

Children are acutely discern¬ing of what they see and hear in their immediate environment, you know. At Christmas, many of them are usually no doubt amazed to see adults around them-parents, guardians, family friends and oth¬ers, suddenly become friendly towards people they have been bad mouthing, backbiting and insulting to the hearing of the chil¬dren all year round.•

So you see, at Christmas the young ones get to understand the ways of this world, that for many people, life is all about putting on one great act and living a respectable lie of goodness, which of course require a good measure of skilled hypocrisy.

Someone I talked to about all this declared that I was suffering from an advanced stage of acute hyper cynicism. He said that there must be many nice and car¬ing people who are not putting on the grand old act, when they show generosity to the poor at Christ¬mas.

He insisted that many people were genuinely happy at Christmas. They are usually inspired by the soul-lifting story of Christ's birth and are excited when they are able to gather for unions and re-unions of family and friends. They catch the profoundly mysti¬cal and magical mood of the sea¬son and are thus often sincere in their generosity and goodwill to all.

I say to the fellow, alright, alright, you may be right after all, but why should they be of great cheer and goodwill only at Christ¬mas? He shrugs that one off.

The daily observance of Christ¬mas need not be the very expen¬sive celebration imposed on us by those who have high jacked the cel¬ebration for excessive pleasure and profit. Celebrating Christ's birth has become expensive only because the profit-motivated agents of mass consumerism have imposed values on the Christmas celebra¬tion, which demand that people over-spend on items they do not need.

The values imposed on Christmas demand that we buy expensive gifts for children and other relations, over-eat, over -drink and over-do so many other things.

The Christmas celebration hijacked from the Church by soci¬ety, runs for only 48 hours if you include Boxing Day, yet imagine the quantity and cost of purchas¬es carted away from shops, stores, supermarkets and our traditional market places for the 48-hour celebration.

Mountains of food are waste¬fully leveled and wolfed down millions of guts. The lot is washed further down millions of diges¬tive tracts by oceans of booze and non-alcoholic drinks gushing down millions of throats.

All genres of music compete with carols at a thousand deci¬bels for rhythm and pitch. I am not against people having fun, but I am against the imposition of expensive values on the celebration and the apparent faking of happiness and good¬ness.

The rich are probably often only too happy for an opportunity to spend, but others of far more modest means are trapped in the orgy of over-spending only because they must move along with the rest of society. In Janu¬ary, there is always hell with a capital “H” to pay!

The challenge now is to recover the stolen Christmas and make it a 365-day celebration every year minus to excessive indulgence and booze-fuelled. Consider what a much better world it would be if the spirit of Christmas Day prevailed throughout the year! Merry Christmas. {The author is Editor-in-Chief of the General Telegraph} Website: Email: