Every year in December, millions of Nigerians go to church on Christmas Eve. They crowd shoulder-to-shoulder in “batchers”, kiosks or domes to light candles and sing “Silent Night”. A lot of persons participate in plays that recreate the birth of Jesus. And when the service is over, they exchange hearty “Merry Christmas!” wishes before beginning the trek home.
That was the standard practice until some 10 years ago. With the advent of the different Pentecostal churches came the modification of a lot of doctrines and practices. Most of the practices and doctrines that helped Christians understand the God they serve and helped them live good lives have been changed. And these changes are intentional. They have been changed to meet the convenience and financial needs of the leaders who do not have the interest of the followers at heart. It is no longer about what God will have them do but what they have to do to make money and live large.
The followers, on the other hand, allow themselves to be deceived by the swindlers in clergymen cloaks. It is now common to see literate and educated men and women take instructions from semi-illiterate and uneducated men. The same men who turn them against their friends and family in the name of prophecy. In fact, these leaders and heads of congregations have made themselves mini-gods. They are now known to come up with ridiculous practices that their followers never question.
Well, to say that this a Nigerian thing is to be unfair. In recent times and in different African countries, stories of pastors asking their members to eat some unclean things and allow themselves to be brutalized have been in the news. It is sad to see that where other countries are making efforts to improve their standard of living, most African countries are subjecting themselves to mental, emotional and physical torture in the name of religion.
Among the practices that have been bastardized is the Christmas celebration. Apart from the fact that Christmas is now just another holiday, it is slowly becoming less about the birth of Jesus Christ. People are now more concerned about reuniting with family members, eating special meals and going sightseeing. The clergymen are keen on cashing out on the holiday excitement and enriching themselves.
Some persons have said in private interviews that Christmas coinciding with end-of-year celebrations in a country like ours is the reason why people miss out on the true meaning and reason for the season. Because Nigerians are deprived of their basic human rights in every turn, they work twice as hard to survive and to make ends meet. So whenever they get opportunities to rest and relax without having to feel guilty about it, they cease them with both hands.
“The Christmas period is what it is in these parts because of the kind of economy we operate,” they concluded.
The gist here, therefore, is that Nigerians should open their eyes and see for themselves. There is need to see that pastors are deliberately keeping them in church for what they can get from them. They are tapping into the excitement of the period . You know what they say about a happy man? That he can give you his shoes and walk bare-footed.
Understanding the reason for the season will help people better celebrate. It is not wrong for people go to church on Christmas Day but they should not allow their pastors keep them there all day. The common practice is to spend the whole day in church without a chance to actually celebrate. If the activities performed on this day in these churches are wholesome activities that help people focus on the Saviour, then it can be allowed. But that is not the case. The focus usually is on the gratitude offerings.
The Americans that Nigerians copy do not celebrate Christmas in churches on Christmas Day. They have instead fixed all the activities on the Christmas Eve, and they do so so that they can celebrate with family members on the day. Christmas is about remembering the unconditional love of Jesus Christ for mankind. It is also about spreading that love with people around us. So how much can be achieved when the whole day is spent within church buildings?