Excerpts of the message delivered on Christmas Day 25th December 2022 by the Most Rev Dr Benjamin Kwashi, Bishop, Anglican Diocese of Jos, Nigeria at St. Luke’s Anglican Cathedral, 26, Church Street, Jos, Nigeria
Text: John 1:1-14
I feel led to take us through the crisis of Christmas without Christ, and I am going to centre God’s message on John chapter 1.
You know Christmas has turned into celebration; it has also become a commercialization. In fact, there are people whose entire industry is Christmas. They’ve studied it, they know what to sell to you and you must look for the money or borrow or steal or cheat in order to expend your hard earned money on Christmas, to the extend that when the Christmas enterprise is not met, it becomes a crisis; and it becomes a crisis of Christmas without Christ.
There are others who have no idea of the commercialization or the enterprise of Christmas but for them, everyday is a crisis, a crisis of abuse, a crisis of depression, a crisis of lack, a crisis of anger, of depression, of bitterness, of evil, of envy; life is just a crisis and many people are going around like dummies who are wounded and always angry looking for someone to unleash their anger and honestly, life can be a crisis, unless Jesus Christ intervenes.
For those for whom Christ Jesus has intervened, either for this Christmas or anytime in life, everyday becomes a Christmas; because Jesus is Lord.
The way in which John chapter 1:10 puts it is this way, I quote “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet, the world did not know Him”. That is where the crisis begins. Do you know Him? And even if you claim you know Him, does He know you? Cos it’s one thing for you to know Him, it’s another thing for Him to know you…if you claim you know Him, does He know you? Because it has to be mutually compatible for Christmas to be without crisis because the world did not know Him and He’s just around the corner, Jesus is here, He is everywhere. Do you know Him?
In Galatians Chapter 4, Paul tells the Galatian Christians, he said “but when the fullness of time came, God send-forth His Son born of a virgin.” You see, God does not work haphazardly in the whole of creation. He works with His time! God’s time! And as children, we played football and when we loose, we usually say God’s time is the best; it is true, God’s time is the best. They that wait upon the Lord, they that wait, only those that wait, because God’s timing in sending Jesus two thousand years ago was the time for Him in history for which he has been orchestrating the timing in history to come to that point where He will bring salvation to the whole world. It was also his time when he sent the flood to wipe away the sin, the corruption in the world and only Noah and his family were saved. God is a timekeeper. Don’t be in a hurry. But only when you know Him and He knows you. If you do not know Him and He does not know you, you will be rushing, you will be struggling, you will stampede, you will malign, you will slander, you will lie, you will cheat, you will steal, and you might even kill for the sake of one temporary position. Just one position in life- political or civil service or public service or even market!
And the birth of Jesus, Luke tells us took place at a certain time by a certain lady, a young girl called Mary. Jesus was born in Bethlehem, Mary was His mother. When Jesus was born, the angels sang, they were rejoicing, the shepherds were rejoicing and the shepherds in their joy made the story of Jesus’ birth known, they were so happy… they were telling it all over the place! They told everything. Luke 2:11; Simeon when he saw Mary and Joseph, he also sang the nunct dimitis – now Lord let your servant depart in peace; Anna, the prophetess, when she saw the baby she prophesied- only one man did not rejoice, his name is Herod. If it was only Herod that did not rejoice it would have been okay. The Bible says, Herod was troubled and all Jerusalem with him.
Can you see when the Bishop was sick like I was, the whole diocese was sick! In the same way, if any of you my members practice wickedness in your places of work or market and you are evil people will think immediately that it is the leader; it is the Bishop. When God places a person as a manager or a Bishop or an Archdeacon or at any leadership, if you are sick, everybody will be sick and if that is the consistent behavior of those that follow you, then we now know whom the leader is- he is a Herod! Because Herod’s unhappiness did not stop at “all Jerusalem troubled with him” He killed children, he killed them. He caused sorrow for widows, he didn’t care whether that was an only child; he killed all of them. He was threatened by the birth of one little baby. He caused sorrow instead of joy. Why are people rejoicing? He introduced sorrow. As we are talking, yesterday, Kagoro was being attacked, the week before, Malagun, they were conducting funeral yesterday, I couldn’t watch it! Nigerian leaders, this is their own style of leadership; that for eight years and before them another eight years, so for sixteen years and in my own case since 2001, in this city and in this state, nothing but funeral and our leaders are drinking tea eating pepper soup. Every time a village head, a district head of a first class chief is massacred on the plateau, they would say “we would not leave any stone unturned”. The stones have finished. They have been turning the stones for twenty years; since 2001, September 7th, up till today, villages are occupied, they are turning the stones, they will bring everybody to book, the books have finished, we’ve never seen the books.
The Herods of this world don’t want joy, they are sadists, they are evil, they are wicked, children are massacred; I will never forget the picture of that little girl in Zamfara, on the front page of the paper, the father was carrying his little girl with his goat, that was all he had; and the leaders are telling us they’ve constructed airport, rail line, who cares about construction when there is no life?
Can you construct life? That is the crisis of Christmas without Christ! When people don’t know God, they don’t care whether you are happy or not as long as they get what they want and they have so much. I have said it before, if only they can take all the millions and leave us alive; I tell you the truth, we are okay! Let them take it and give us our little life, give us life! Kidnappers now are like a federal ministry, because even government pays them to secure their people. Police are being kidnapped, banditry has gone everywhere…and nobody is doing anything, even here in Miango, see army barracks, villages are being wipe out, and they sit down and their girl friends will be touching their heads and they will say everything is alright. They don’t like joy, they want us to be sad. Herod was a mindless, brutal and mean human being. He turned everybody; when he sees you happy, he will get angry and cause something that will make you sad. There are people like that; they don’t like people being happy. He was troubled and all Jerusalem with him; but that is the problem of any Christmas and the crisis of Christmas without Christ.
Now, I don’t want to bother you with the crisis because even seating here in church today and now, are people who have caused sorrow for other people; they enjoy it. I remember warning doctors and nurses and people here, I said, if it was your mother during strike that died, what would you say? If you didn’t pass chemistry, how would you have done? That because you are a doctor mortuary will increase! I have said this and I told my children who are in the medical profession, you must stand as a child of God in your practice. Because it will be a curse for which you will answer in the Day of Judgment. That for the sake of money you preferred people dead. The ministry of doctors, and pastors and teachers is called a noble calling. You are nobility. Once you can become a doctor, you are no longer ordinary. At least I teach my own children who want to do medicine…I tell them this because you are the only one who can look at an old man and say baba undress and he will undress. You say mama lie down and she will lie down. You are a noble, you are no longer ordinary; you are a prince of God participating with God in the recovery of the health of another human being. That is what my oncologist said and I quoted him on Facebook. He said I thank God to be a witness of the miracle of God in the life of Ben. He wept with us, sometimes, I shouldn’t say this; but those people did it let me say it; out of their pockets, apart from looking after me, they paid the bills, can you imagine? A doctor, I am not an American, I am not even white…but our doctors in Nigeria prefer people dead!
And they are in Church; causing sorrow for other people. Let’s not talk about the politicians because, if we don’t deal with the church, we will not deal with any body. Teachers, they are noble because only a teacher could teach a Bishop… Teachers are nobles. You can’t on strike, no you can’t! If you do, the strike you went through when this child gets out and becomes something what will you tell God? What will you tell God? Strike is a new thing in this generation. Before my own eyes, it was during Babangida that strike began, we did not know strike in our mission schools.
Pastors, noble profession…I am not jealous of my colleagues in other profession, I will not beg, why; because I am in a noble profession. God knows how to take care of His own. God takes care of teachers, God takes care of doctors and God takes care of pastors. But when you get those who don’t know it, they become Herods. They kill, they prefer sorrow, let there be trouble every now. God is going to judge. Because you are celebrating Christmas with Christ!
The Solution Here is the solution: John tells us, here is the antidote: the antidote of all of these things is very simple:• You have to accept and receive the gift of God.
What does verse 12 of Chapter 1 say? …For all who believe in Him and believe in His name he gave the right to become children of God. That is the only antidote. If you truly do it, you know Him and He knows you, let everybody be flying their helicopter everyday, you will still pass, a thousand will fall by your side and ten thousand by your right side but nothing will happen to you.
You are talking about cancer in my life; it didn’t begin now. 1985, Bishop Bello is alive, he was a member of my church, my kidney, the right kidney rot with tuberculosis, 1985, I was passing blood urine, I was dying away. Five months later as Bishop Ogbonyomi was looking for how to send me to England, they were preparing everything, just as it came, that’s how the tuberculosis left. I woke up one day and I said Gloria give me some food to eat. She was shocked…The following Monday over the weekend, we were going to see the doctor because Professor Bello has done his own work in the laboratory, in those days before they do culture it took about 21 days or so, then they took me to their Head of Department who was Prof Gad, an Indian man – he said I should collect my urine for 10 days, so I brought several treated bottles and packaged 2 cartons of urine to him. They tested it; he held my file, he called Prof Bello, he held my file, held his own, he said have you been taking medicine? I said no sir; he said I can’t understand it; he said you must be near God…God just opened the door to witness to this man. He was a Hindu. I led him to Christ. By following Sunday he was in church…I said God; do you have to take through tuberculosis to save one soul? A whole Professor of Urology.
Almost a year later, they came to kill me…they burnt our house, our church- everything! Gloria had traveled. God rescued us. And that has been the mark of my life in faith. So when people threatened me “I will deal with you”, I know they are wasting their time; and I believe Him because He has given me the right to become the child of God and there is nothing you can do…until my day is up, nothing will take me out, nothing. 3 Things very quickly so that I end…
1. Know the Word: John 1:1-4. I am giving you antidote now so that your life can be without a crisis that happens at Christmas. I am giving you antidote of stopping crisis at Christmas or at anytime.
2. John 1:12: Receive the Word
3. John 1:14-18: Witness and bear witness to the Word.I have taking a long introduction to get into the teaching of the word in John’s gospel because we need to truly be confronted with our own ills and evils in the church before the world outside can believe in Christ. The problem that God has is not with those outside, it’s with His children and until we are willing to accept the word, to receive the word, to know the word and to witness to the word the world would not know the word.
1. Know the Word: John 1:1-4
The classic ignorance of the world makes the world arrogant. It is ignorant of the word; John tells us that Jesus is that word in verse 1. He’s always in the world. He’s available in the world. He’s invisible in the world. He’s present in the world BUT the world did not know Him. Verse 1, He’s active in creation in the world, He’s active in creation everything on earth and in heaven for nothing created that would have been created without Him but the world does not know Him. Verse 4; He is the life, He is the light. Why is he the life? It is His breath that He breathe to us that is why we are living, but we don’t know Him. He is the life and the light. The light generates power so that we can move, work, earn a living and do good but we don’t know Him. He’s the life in us to live and those who have this life they defeat sickness, they defeat depression, they defeat poverty, they defeat sin, they defeat Satan, they defeat anything the enemy will bring their way, why? Because He is living in them and Jesus has conquered them on the cross. So if you live in Christ and Christ in you, you will be a victor not a victim and you will be more than a conqueror. That is the offer God gives us; and I have heard the heresy that in this ministry, you can’t do it without money, we have to make money first before we do this ministry; where is that in the Bible? Since God called me, God has always provided whether in sickness or in poverty or in anything, God has always provided. God first, money will follow but money first God will not follow. Because Money is a god and you will not worship any other thing but God; for money is an idol; it is. You must earn your living, yes, but when you make money a god, God will not follow you. God is the generating power that never goes out; He is the unquenchable and inevitable source of power to live a life here on earth, He provides all that we will ever need, He provides the creativity in us to be creative for the good of humanity, He provides all the goodness of God in us to present us with a life and power with which to live and last in this life and through to eternity. That is what God does. Darkness is helpless where light appears; but we must receive Him and believe in Him. Avoid the crisis of Christmas without Christ.
2. Receive the Word, v. 12: The word which we now know in the Bible as written word , we now have understood that it now Him who is revealed in the written word through the spirit. It is one thing to be giving a gift it is another thing to receive that gift and still another to be grateful for it …The Word Jesus is freely given. Archbishop Cranmer says “we must read the Word, we must mark the Word, we must learn the Word, and inwardly digest the Word.”Memorize the Word, brethren, if you are a true child of God and you read the word everyday, you do your devotions, you read the Bible everyday, a time comes when you may not be able anymore…. The Word is freely given, are you going to just through it away because it is an ordinary book or Bible? But when you assimilate and you inwardly digest, watch your life overtime and see how the grace of God will be transforming your life, you become transformer overtime and you become influential at work, at home and in the society. This is the way to avoid the crisis of celebrating Christmas without Christ.
3. Be a witness. John 1:14-18
The word became human; the word became flesh like any other boy like any other girl. He lives and dwells among people. The only we know whether you know the word, you have receive the word and you have believe the word is when you are living amongst people. They are the ones who will testify; this one is a Christian, this one believes, why do you believe what you believe? You have to live amongst people, particular living amongst unbelievers. If the Church chooses to be a church, unbelievers would be converted without us saying much.
The reason unbelievers are thriving and oppressing us, now we are crying in our places of work, we are worse than they are. Is it exams malpractice; is it in the hospitals, is it in the Universities…Friends, if we do not change, the evil of the crisis of celebrating Christmas without Christ will pursue us in our rooms and our dreams unless the word that became flesh dwells in us, His presence is with us at home, anywhere, just be afraid and always acknowledge the Lord is seeing me even in the dark. The Lord is seeing me in the night. Psalm 139 where can I hide before my God? Let the presence of this God dwell in you, tabernacle with you, surround you because if He is with you, who can be against you?It is disastrously unacceptable that as a Christian, you will live in a community and those among whom you live hardly know the word. They don’t see it in your life; they can’t even feel your love or your kindness. What they see is a Herod who goes to church. When you come home your children and wife are sad, if you’re a woman when you come home your children and your husband are sad. You are a Herod in female body. You make people unhappy.
They hardly know what kind of a pastor this is. What kind of a pastor’s wife this is; what kind of a Christian elder this is in the church.
Those who however know the word,
V,16 says they have receive grace upon grace and Ephesians 2:10 says for by grace we are saved; grace that enables you to do far and beyond what you can ever think or imagine. Grace that enables you, Titus says, to say no to sin and yes to righteousness.
Those who have received the word also receive the truth of God. For the truth of God sets all men free; all men, regardless of your tribe, you are my town’s man, tell the truth, you are not my town’s man, tell the truth. Live the truth; for Jesus is the way the truth and the light. Every time you tell a lie, Jesus walks away but every time you tell the truth, Jesus stands by you, He will defend you, He will protect you, He will stand with you.
Those who have received the word also receive the fullness of life. Col 1:19; for the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Christ. He gives it to us.
Those who have received the word have received life and life eternal, John 10:10 the thieve comes to steal, kill and destroy but I have come that you will have life and have it to the full.
Avoid the crisis of Christmas without Christ.
Brothers and sisters, I have chosen to speak long this Christmas because I don’t know how long I would live, but if I have said nothing at all, I am begging you to know the word. it would soon be January, let us go back to the word, read the Bible everyday, do your devotions everyday…know the word. But secondly, receive the word, receive Him, for only those who receive He gave the power and authority to be call children of God- be a child of God in the environment, in the community, anywhere, any time, you should not be in doubt that you are a Christian; you shouldn’t be in doubt.
Finally, be a witness. Do what the shepherds did. Go and tell people what the Lord has done for you. I know being recovered from cancer, people are saying wow, wow, but listen; that Jesus saved me in the streets of Lagos in 1976 remains the only testimony I have and my passport to the gates of heaven. Any other thing is what God can easily do, if God can save me from death and hell and sin, he can save me from sickness and poverty and anything else, I believe. Do you believe?
Let us pray.