By Francis Ewherido
The 2019 advent season started this week, last Sunday, to be specific. The word Advent in its simple form means the arrival of a notable person or event.
Even at that, it captures the essence of the season. Advent is derived from the Latin word, adventus, which means, coming.
It means we are expecting a very important event, Christmas, when we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. In addition, it reminds us to live in constant expectation of the second coming of Jesus Christ. Advent also means the coming of Jesus into the hearts of Christians on a daily basis. But our concern today is essentially the preparation for the commemoration of the birth of Christ.
The Advent season is often marked with the Advent wreath and four candles representing hope, love, joy and peace. In other words, for many Christians, we are in a season of hope, love, joy and peace, and how much we need these four companions. One of the major ingredients that separates the living from the dead is hope. Without hope, though you breathe, you are as good as dead. Wikipedia describes hope as “an optimistic state of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes with respect to events and circumstances in one’s life or the world at large.”
It is hope that is making life meaningful for many people today, not their present state, but hope for a better tomorrow. And their hope is not misplaced.
Hope and determination made that young boy from a very wretched background take his studies very seriously over 40 years ago. Hope and determination made him to endure in school when he could barely feed and buy school materials. Hope and determination pushed him to working hard and getting good results. Hope made him leave his homestead for greener pastures after his youth service.
Hope kept him going during the days of little beginnings. Hope, determination, faith, hard work and focus have taken him to the zenith where he is today. This is a very irritating message in the ears of many young people. The situation is hopeless as far as some of them are concerned.
But hope may look blurred, it may be delayed, it may look like it is non-existent, but it is there. We are in a season of hope. No matter how bad your situation is, keep hope alive. Do not let your situation drain your hope. Without hope, you are deflated and finished.
The second candle represents love. It is very difficult to talk about love because the word has been so bastardised, it now has many meanings. But during Advent, we talk about selfless and unconditional love. This is the kind of love that made Jesus to come down from heaven to assume the nature of man, except in sin. This selfless and unconditional love is what is being demanded of us this season, and effectively, always. It is difficult, but Jesus already did what none can do, so that kind of gives us the lofty heights to which we should aspire.
At a time in my early 30s, I felt a void in my life. In the attempt to fill it, I joined a group in the church. One of the first things that struck me was that many members of the group were not well educated; some were also “poor,” but they seemed so happy. I kept wondering how people in that state could be happy. It did not make sense to me. Over time I found that joy is of God and they were just joyful serving God. Joy is a gift from God and can manifest even when times are tough. It does not rely on material accomplishments only to be present. In fact, it is more of a spiritual manifestation. You must begin to find joy in the little things of life: waking up to a brand new day, doing physical exercises, having a cup of cold water (why not?) in this hot weather, taking a walk in the evening, having your young children run to you to say welcome when you get back from work or an outing, fixing a cup of tea/coffee, having a good laugh with family or friends, taking a breath of fresh air; all those little things in life that we take for granted.
Unless you can find joy, happiness, fulfilment and contentment in these little things, you will not find joy, happiness, fulfilment and contentment in ownership of a private jet, Ross Royce, mansions in Asokoro or Banana Island. There will always be a void and longing. Joy flows from within and manifests without, not vice versa.
Finally and closely related to joy is peace. In a way, joy means inner peace, that peace that surpasses all human understanding. When you have inner peace, chances are you are going to be at peace you’re your family and the outer society. That is what the season is supposed to engender, that is what we are supposed to strive for.
Advent comes with some practices. The most common in Nigeria is setting up the Christmas tree and Christmas decorations. Last Saturday, my wife formally set up the Christmas tree before I got back from an outing. I had told her earlier to set it up after a popular bank lit up Victoria Island, Lagos, with Christmas decoration, but I was overruled. She insisted we must wait for Advent and did I have any choice?
I do not know how to set up the Christmas tree and I did not want to encourage my daughter, who knows how to set it up, to disobey her mother; not when she is right. But thank God the wait is over. I love Christmas trees and Christmas decorations. Like food seasoning, they light up life and the environment, they paint a glorious picture of life and do we need that temporary uplifting in this part of the world?
WORLD’S AIDS DAY
Also, last Sunday was World Aids Day. Since 1986, when the first case of HIV/AIDS was reported in Nigeria, we have come a long way. The initial steps were wobbly, but much has been achieved, especially since the NACA (National Action for the Control of HIV/AIDS) arrived the scene. NACA says HIV/AIDS prevalence has dropped to 1.4 per cent of the population from 2.8 per cent a few years back. This is good news. But I am worried that awareness creation is not as intense it was in those days.
I do not know the prevalence rate among age groups, but I hope the younger ones, with hotter blood, coming up are aware of the dangers of HIV/AIDS. Our fleshy lusts and human weaknesses notwithstanding, let us always remember that mutual fidelity and abstinence remain the best antidote against HIV/AIDS.