Nigeria: Re – Christmas: Not of Christ, But of Baal Worship!
BY Justine John DYIKUK
While all around the world of Christendom (Christians and their friends) were enthusiastically awaiting the yuletide celebration for 2012, one Mr. Eferovo Igho was clandestinely preparing an unpalatable meal to serve God’s children on Boxing Day. Vanguard of 26, December offered him the pot to cook this unsavoury banquet. That the piece was published under viewpoint is indicative of an individual’s opinion of the matters at hand and narrowly so! To put things straight, your right to religion and worship is personal yet, it stops where mine begins. As far as religion is concerned, opinions concerning what other’s hold dear to their hearts must be respected. Once a view leaves the realm of the intrapersonal, it becomes interpersonal which in turn invites mass media as is the case here. Being cynical about the beliefs of others even if they don’t mean anything to you is simply uncharitable and callous. Attempting this on another religion would be a pill to better to swallow. As such, learning a lesson against buttonholing is paramount here! Mr. Igbo like one Olufemi Arinsiola who in his attempt to defend jet-pastors painted Orthodox Churches in bad light in TELL magazine of December 10, 2012 has joined the league of cheap blackmailers. The duo seem to belong to what I call ‘pious/puritanist’s club of Nigeria.’ One’s uneasiness is how many noses are incensed with their superficial aroma of what is meant to be junk!
Igho, our friend and brother, must be a theologian (biblical scholar), a historian, a philosopher, an analyst and a truth-teller as his thesis: ‘Christmas: Not of Christ, but of Baal worship’ projects. But would these appellations make for a tantalizing menu? Your doubts are as good as mine. I plead with him to please educate my ignorance!
Our critic not only pitches Christianity against Catholicism but divorces the former from the later. What do Church history books on the establishment of the Church from Pentecost to the Middle Ages put forward to us? Did Christ not found his Church on Peter the Rock (Cf. Matthew 16:13-20) and emphatically said the gates of the underworld will never hold out against it? Did the Church not start on Pentecost Sunday (Acts 2:42-47)? How many Churches where there from the first century to the twelfth century? Are the likes of Saints Peter and Paul, Stephen, Thomas Aquinas and Augustine of Hippo (a refined African theologian from Hippo whose theological works remain a timeless classic) not Christians? Please educate me!
No one has doubted that Catholicism concerns ‘…faith and it is a religion’ as you rightly said but that ‘Christianity is found IN THE BIBLE AND THE BIBLE ALONE’ is a cry of thirst in the desert for a drop of water. The impression that Catholics do not read the bible is falsity, whole and entire an exaggerated conspiracy of a life time. This presentation with an admixture of contradiction of Sacred Tradition (Cf. Lk 10:16 & 1:1-4; 1 Cor. 11:2) with human tradition (Matt. 15:3; Col. 2:8) is an irregular recipe. If one may ask, who wrote the Bible? When was it written? Who is its best interpreter? The Bible and Church, which came before the other? Please, furnish my ignorance! There is a tendency among many Christians to be sola scriptura – that is, concerning faith and salvation, it has to be scriptures alone. Was the Old Testament which the Jews still use today not there before the Epistles and Gospels? What were the early Christians using before the corpus of what we have today as the New Testament was put together? Are we ignorant of the fact that it took about one thousand years to write the Old Testament and about five to six hundred years to write the New Testament? So how were the early Christians surviving without the complete Bible? Were they not living on the Sacred Tradition handed over to the Apostles by the Lord (Cf. Lk 10:16 & 1:1-4; 1 Cor. 11:2)? Please, teach me more!
The second temptation is to be inclined to sola fide (John 3:16; John 6:40), faith alone saves. Saint James details us about the Church’s soteriology concerning faith and good works which she has upheld for over two thousand years now (James 2:21, 24-25; also, 2 Tim. 1:14; 1 Cor. 13:2). Show me your faith and I by my good works would have proven my faith, period. The two aren’t divorced from each other but parts of the same coin. This position wasn’t easy for reformers like Luther and Calvin but later events would lay bare the path to follow. Why is charity singled out from faith and hope as the cardinal/most important of all virtues? Correct me on this!
Your take on Christmas as a celebration of Baal is uninviting. In his piece: Yes, Christ Was Really Born on December 25: Here’s a Defence of the Traditional Date for Christmas, Dr. Taylor Marshall masterly establishes the birthday of Christ from Sacred Scripture in two fronts namely; employing Scripture to determine the birthday of Saint John the Baptist and using Saint John the Baptist’s birthday as key to finding the birthday of Christ. He puts it thus:
‘Zacharias and Elizabeth conceived John the Baptist immediately after Zacharias served his course. This entails that Saint John the Baptist would have been conceived somewhere around the end of September, placing John’s birth at the end of June, confirming the Catholic Church’s celebration of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist on June 24. We read that just after the Immaculate Virgin Mary conceived Christ, she went to visit her cousin Elizabeth who was six months pregnant with John the Baptist. This means that John the Baptist was six months older that our Lord Jesus Christ (Lk 1:24-27, 36). If you add six months to June 24 you get December 24-25 as the birthday of Christ. Then, if you subtract nine months from December 25 you get that the Annunciation was March 25. All the dates match up perfectly. So then, if John the Baptist was conceived shortly after the Jewish Day of the Atonement, then the traditional Catholic dates are essentially correct. The birth of Christ would be about or on December 25.’ Do I need more light on this?
Sacred Tradition also confirms December 25 as the birthday of the Son of God. The source of this ancient tradition is the Blessed Virgin Mary herself. Can any mother forget the birth of her child? Ask and she will not only give you the date of the birth, but she will be able to rattle off the time, the location, the weather, the weight of the baby, the length of the baby, and a number of other details – mothers never forget the details surrounding the births of their babies, Marshall says.
Church history has it that, ‘the liturgical celebration of Christ’s birth was commemorated in Rome on December 25 long before Christianity became legalized and long before our earliest record of a pagan feast for the birthday of the Unconquered Sun. For these reasons, it is reasonable and right to hold that Christ was born on December 25 in 1 B.C. and that he died and rose again in March of A.D. 33’ which is why Taylor’s new book The Eternal City also makes an argument in defense of the traditional BC/AD dating as being 100% accurate.’
Even if the theory that Christmas was replaced by a pagan feast (birthday of the Unconquered Sun) in ancient Rome is anything to go by, does it disprove the fact that Christ became incarnate? Of what special significance is exactitude of the time and date of Christ’s birth to our salvation? Suffice it to say that many of our parents cannot even remember when they were born. But does that make them less human or cease to be our fathers or mothers? I need to be updated on answers to these! Even if Christianity baptised a pagan feast what is wrong with that? Did westernization not bring civilization to Africa? What were our fore-parents wearing before the advent of Christianity? Don’t some Africans get baptised or bear European/America names? Does that make them inhuman? What are the lessons of inculturation or acculturation for us? I would like some fine-tuning on these!
You directly accosted the Vatican and in your orgy, you confuse it Rome. The Vatican and Rome are two independent nations. The writer does not understand why a person will have a problem with Rome being a world power at a time. Russia was and so is America today. It is an open essay that every World Power exacts a lot of influence on the world. My history teacher tells me that it is wrong to judge the past with the eyes of the present. The Vatican, an independent city state with the Pope (Benedict XVI) as its head and the Vicar of Christ on earth, in union with the Universal Church is God’s Holy nation, a people set apart to sing the praises of God (Cf. 1 Pet. 2:9). The Church constitutes saints and sinners which is why Christ came to reedmen humanity. To go the way of pessimism by singling out some mistakes by a few mortals as a stamp for either Catholicism or Christendom is partying in a fool’s paradise or daring the divine. The Church does not make noise about her role in the world. She boasts of no laurels safe for her glory in the Lord and in the saints.
A self-righteous and triumphalistic attitude as demonstrated by Eferovo Igho who in the author’s note I understand is a missionary to Nakuru – East Africa, Kenya is a sure case of going against traffic. He has attempted to pull down the rafter (Christianity) housing his ‘missionary enterprise’. This dish of yours meant to leave many with diarriagh during the Christmas season is a bullet in the wrong direction, I must say! This writer may be unaware of many things but begs Igho to keep a date with events to add to his feather of knowledge so as to avoid toying with the TRUTH Christians have held for over two thousand years. If anything, he should find out who nursed Christianity, fed her, suckled her in thick and thin and brought forth the scripture to the world – the Church gave birth to the Bible but the Bible continues to give life to the Church. Only a stupid daughter would teach her mother how to give birth to a child. Meal rejected – Jesus is the reason for the Season – Compliments!
Fr. Justine John DYIKUK, a Catholic priest, freelance writer/poet and Public Affairs Commentator writes from, Centre for the Study of African Culture and Communication, Catholic Institute of West Africa, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, where he is a post-graduate student in Pastoral Communication!
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