Message of Christmas- May the Lord open our Mind for His Wisdom! Girma Kassa
Our Lord Jesus (or Issa) is worshipped by Christians as the Son of the Living God and adored by Muslims as a Prophet. It was His birth two thousand years ago in Bethlehem that we commemorate and celebrate as Christmas or “Genna”.
There were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. According to the Gospel of Luke, an angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds and told them the good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. A great company of the heavenly host (angels) appeared praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to all men.”
The message of Christmas is a message of joy and peace. One of the heavenly declarations during that holy night is that peace is on Earth to all men. Our Lord Jesus Christ has come to the world to give us true peace that does not depend on external circumstances, but that springs out from within our heart.
In this modern world, the lack of peace and internal security severely affects many aspects or dimensions of our lives: personal, family, and national.
Suicides, addictions, and alcoholism are all manifestations of the lack of internal peace within individuals. According to official statistics, about a million people around the world commit suicide annually, more than those murdered or killed in wars. Some suicides may be explained by situational or cultural underpinnings. For instance, the suicide of Emperor Thewodros is one such example that is celebrated by Ethiopians and has become a symbol of the refusal of Ethiopians to British Colonialism for more than a century. Setting aside these generally unique cases, it is worth noting that depression is the leading cause of suicide. Suicide, simply put, is the lack of internal peace and security.
That is why the message of Christmas as a message of peace is important in the world today. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to all men, ” declared the angels. All of us are important to God. There is something unique that we can accomplish that no-one can. We may loose in one night what we have labored for years. We may learn distressing news about our health or we may have difficulty providing for our children. We may be lonely and betrayed by our dear friends. We may loose loved ones and be at the bottom of society. We may lose hope in our lives and feel hollow and empty on the inside. Others may bully us and we may come to believe that that we are good for nothing. We may continuously blame ourselves for a past mistake and come to lose our purpose in our life completely.
However, I declare the message of Christmas: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to all men”. This is a heavenly message to each one of us. It is a message of hope, peace and joy. It is a message that reminds us that there are always alternatives. The stormy season will surely pass and spring will come. We should give ourselves second chances. We should tell ourselves that we are human beings created in the image of God for a unique and a noble cause. We may not be needed by others but we are important to God. We should stop blaming ourselves for what we did years ago. Instead, let us make use of our past mistakes to make our future a better one. Let us open our heart to a new beginning and a holy message of Christmas which is a message of joy, peace, and reconciliation.
Another important dimension of peace is the peace among fellow human beings. Here again, we see that the message of Christmas has a dimension that brings people together. It is in our nature to be slow to love and forgive but be quick to hate and judge, slow to build but quick to destroy. Many couples who shared their lives together may no longer dine at the same table. There may be some childhood friends who do not talk to each other anymore. What we have learned from our culture and our society may be hate towards a certain group of our population. Our hearts, whatever the reasons, may be filled with bitterness and rage against other fellow Ethiopians. But, the message of Christmas; the message of peace, love and forgiveness can provide fundamental changes in our perspectives and attitudes. It is a message that gives us the opportunity to see life from a different angle and a divine perspective. The message of Christmas is a message that says, ” LOVE and COMPASSION are more powerful than hate. MERCY and FORGIVENESS are more powerful that revenge.”
Let us create an opportunity for divorcees to reconsider and restore their marriages. Let us remember more the good days we have spent together than those few days that set us apart. The message of Christmas is a message that focuses on the positives. Let children go to sleep kissing their fathers and mothers every night. Let there be peace and joy in all families so they may sing, “Joy to the World” sitting around the Christmas tree. Let the whole family praise God with “Tsenatsil” and “Kebero” saying “AMAN BE AMAN ; TEWELEDE MEDHANE ALEM/ the Savior of the World is born “
The third dimension is peace in our world. All over the world, human beings are dying in hundreds and thousands in man-made wars and conflicts. The lack of peace is destroying cities, villages and countries. Ethiopia has been embroiled in such misery for generations. Compared to the Derg era, the current situation in Ethiopia may seem stable on the surface. However, with a one party absolute rule and a very narrow political space , the return to the old era of war and destruction cannot be ruled out. Temporary stability cannot, by any means, be considerd “peace”.
Ethiopia has some clear choices to make:
• It can either be like Somalia where one group of the population dominates the rest, where its citizens flee the country by the millions, where attacks and counterattacks destroy the social fabrics of society or it can be like South Africa where mercy and reconciliation rescues the country from its ugly past.
• It can either continue being a country at the peripheries of implosion, the poorest of the poor entirely dependent on outsiders to feed its people or it can be a country which is self-sufficient and food secure.
• It can either be a country where the government rules its people with an iron fist and by the power of the gun or it can be a country where a forward looking and civilized system by the people, for the people and of the people is established.
• It can either choose to be divided in to ethnic groups and immerse itself in ethnic tensions like Bosnia Herzegovina and Darfur or it can choose to live together as a multi-ethnic country where all Ethiopians are respected regardless of their age, gender, religion and ethnic affiliations.
• It can either allow itself to disintegrate and vanish from the face of the Earth despite its proud history or it can emerge as a major power of the black continent of Africa.
• It can either realize full political freedoms, the release of all political prisoners, reporters, human right activists and unfettered individuals’ rights; or it can decide to be a backward and a medieval country.
• It can either be a country where its children come together, forgive one another, and give peace a chance or it can be a country where the current animosity between brothers continues to thrive.
Let the Spirit of Christmas help Ethiopia make the right choices. Let peace, wisdom, and knowledge fill the hearts and minds of the authorities in Arat Kilo. Peace is not something that can either be imposed or exported from the outside. Peace is not a gift from the Americans and the Europeans. Peace is not a product of the United Nations. Peace is something that comes from within. Unless we Ethiopians solve our problems ourselves, it is naïve to expect to receive it from outsiders.
We are the only solution to our problems. We are the ones who can turn around the fate our country. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “nothing can bring us peace but ourselves.” Peace is not stability; nor is it the lack of gun fires. Peace is freedom and joy and a life lived without fear and torment. There is no peace where there is fear. “You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom,” said Malcolm-X. There is no peace where there is no freedom. There is no peace where there is no joy.
It is in this context that I call for the good conscious of the EPRDF officials to do the right thing and give true peace a chance. The ball is in their court. The EPRDF controls the economy, the army, the judiciary and the parliament. It controls everything in Ethiopia. If it chooses to, it can bring peace and hope to that country and its 77 millions inhabitants in a matter of weeks. Although it might be considered a defeat at the beginning, if the EPRDF takes courageous and bold reconciliatory moves now, it would surely be vindicated as the ultimate winner in the history books. EPRDF must unilaterally take bold moves and call for a serious dialog between itself and the main opposition parties who are functioning peacefully within Ethiopia and are abiding by the constitution.
With respect to armed groups, most of whom are based in Asmara, they should recognize war’s heavy costs and be ready to have a dialog with the EPRDF. They must not slam the door shut for peace and reconciliation.
It is my hope and prayer that the leadership of the EPRDF will look beyond the horizon and above their individual prides, and take historic steps at this historic moment in this historic country of ours. It is my hope armed groups will renounce violence, lay down their arms and come to the negotiating table. It is my hope that all parties will come to recognize that the culture of violence does not work in Ethiopia anymore. We are tired of an Ethiopian killing another Ethiopian. We are tired of seeing the blood of our brothers and sisters shed in vain. We are tired of hearing gun fires. We are tired of smelling powders from explosives. We are tired of spending billions of dollars on weapons. What we want is bread, water, peace and the chance to live with dignity in that great country of ours which is called ‘ETHIOPIA”.
Message of Christmas- May the Lord open our Mind for His Wisdom!