A Christmas Message To Ghanaians From Most Rev. Joseph Osei-Bonsu
A Christmas Message To Ghanaians From Most Rev. Joseph Osei-Bonsu, President, Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference, And Bishop Of Konongo-Mampong
May the grace and peace of Our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all!
As we get ready to celebrate Christmas this year, I would like to share some reflections on Christmas with you all. The reflections centre on the relationship between Christmas, the incarnation of Christ, peace and sharing.
Christmas and the Incarnation
My dear fellow Ghanaians, in preparing to celebrate the feast of Christmas, many of us will be buying presents for those who are dear to us. Some of us will be expecting presents from relatives and friends. We shall be buying Christmas cards, decorations, Christmas trees, etc.
In our secular world of today, Christmas is for many people only an occasion for enjoying themselves and for a family reunion. The feast of Christmas these days has so many frills and trappings that many people fail to see what it is essentially about. It has been so commercialized and secularized that many people have lost sight of its spiritual or religious significance.
For many traders, it is simply a time to make all the money that they could not make in the course of the year. It is a time for tailors and seamstresses to reap their “cocoa”, as they charge exorbitant prices for the clothes and dresses that they sew. Christmas means different things to different people. Indeed, Christmas is celebrated by all, Christians and non-Christians. However, we Christians should not lose sight of the spiritual or religious dimension of Christmas.
Christmas marks the birth of Jesus Christ, the saviour of the world. When mankind fell because of sin, it took Christ’s death on the cross and his resurrection to restore the broken relationship between man and God. The birth of Christ at Christmas marks the beginning of the process of salvation for mankind. Christ is said to be Emmanuel, which means “God with us”. In the birth of Christ, God came to be with us not just in spirit but in the flesh. Christmas is about the incarnation, about God taking on human flesh, about God becoming man. Christmas is about the coming together of the divine and the human. We therefore have an obligation to strive after the divine and not limit ourselves to the human or the earthly. As St. Paul says in Col. 3:1-2, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth”.
Christmas and the Prince of Peace
Christmas is also about peace since it commemorates the birth of Christ, the Prince of Peace. For us Christians, Christ is the Prince of Peace spoken of by the prophet Isaiah. At Christ’s birth the angels spoke of peace: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!” (Lk. 2:14). Christ, the Prince of Peace, gives his peace to this world. In John 14:27, Christ says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you”.
It is more than two thousand years since Christ left us physically for heaven, yet the peace that he spoke of remains an elusive phenomenon in our world today. We live in a world beset by all kinds of problems, including wars, even in the Middle East, the birthplace of the Prince of Peace. We must pray for and work towards the realization of peace in all sectors of our lives.
But peace is not necessarily the absence of war. In many places there is no war, and yet there is no peace in homes and in families. There is no peace between brothers and sisters, between parents and children, between husbands and wives. There is no peace between rival political parties. As we celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace, we should remember that there is the need for us to strive to make peace a reality and not a mere dream.
Christmas as a Time of Sharing
Christmas is also a time of sharing. God loved the world so much that he gave his only son for us. We also have to learn to give to others. At Christmas time we like to give gifts to friends and relations. We send Christmas cards and all kinds of presents. Christmas is a reminder to us that we need to be very generous. If God gave his only son to us, we should not be stingy when giving to others.
Let us try to show generosity during this festive season to all those who for one reason or another cannot enjoy themselves. Let us help the poor, the sick, the bedridden, those who are hospitalized and have to spend Christmas away from the comfort of their homes.
May Christ, the Prince of Peace, who brought joy during the first Christmas to Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and the angels, bring you joy. May the joy of the first Christmas and of this Christmas be in your hearts always and may you forever share in the peace of Christ, the Prince of Peace.
On behalf of the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference I wish you all a happy Christmas.