By Rev. Seth Ampadu
Christmas is a most glorious time of the year and I extend wishes for a truly happy celebration to everyone in this wonderful island that God has blessed in so many ways.
In the merriment of the season, let us not forget those who for various reasons, will be unable to spend Christmas with families and loved ones. Some, noticeably the nurses and police officers will be working; some will be overseas; some will be grieving about loved ones who have passed on.
In the midst of this situation, however, let us as a nation, a family and as individuals, focus as best we can, on Christmas as a time of peace and goodwill amongst all peoples. I encourage you to reflect, introspect, and meditate on the reason for the season – Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior who came to earth to show us how to live truly successful and satisfying lives here on earth.
My prayer for you is that the Christ Spirit of love and kindness be born in the humble manger of your heart as you celebrate. And when I speak of celebration I do not mean the wild splurging and excessive spending that is associated with Christmas.
Be wise and careful in your spending. Christmas can be a strain in a number of areas and uncontrolled and thoughtless spending of money can turn your moments of merriment into months of misery.
So I repeat – Spend wisely. Debt is misery. Do whatever you can to avoid it. Credit cards are most tempting. That’s why you have to be disciplined and sensible. Self-discipline is hard to maintain especially when festivity is in the air but when festivity ends there is certainly no fun having to pay and pay and pay. Therefore, let discipline be your watchword. Why over-eat? Why over do? Why over-spend and then have to hide in shame from the debt collectors?
We all know that financial obligations can take a toll on our peace of mind. Discipline means preventing everything in our life from being too congested. In the spiritual life, discipline means to create that space in which something can happen that we hadn’t planned or counted on. I encourage you to only use credit cards for items included in your Christmas spending budget and pay off amounts charged for Christmas gifts the following month, so as not to incur any additional finance charges. Choose to buy a less expensive Christmas tree this year. The idea is to think through your Christmas-related expenses and make choices in the best interests of your family’s financial health.
Bombarded by powerful and persuasive marketing techniques we have to be very careful not to get sucked into spending our money or our time on things that are not truly beneficial – repeat truly beneficial – to us and our families’ progress.
Being financially secure requires having extra money every month that can be used in case of emergency. It also involves saving money. I caution you to try to stay in line with your budget, There is an old saying: You should not hang your hat higher than you can reach, Bear that in mind,
Remember that habits of any kind, including financial ones, are made or broken in the twinkling of an eye. While on this subject of wise spending at Christmas, let me say that we as a people must learn to creep before we can walk. I think that we seem very inclined to copy habits and customs which can hamper our own growth.
Take for instance the custom of eating out instead of making our own lunches at home! You’d be surprised at how much you can save by preparing your own meals! Another thing — don’t allow a holiday bonus or a raise at work to get you off track. Instead of adding such unexpected income to the monthly budget, simply put it to your savings.
Spending habits don’t change overnight. It takes time to change a shopaholic into a frugal fan, but it can be done when you try.
I do believe that if we develop such basic and simple habits saving and careful spending we would be in a much better position and frame of mind to remain committed to contributing to the spreading of peace and goodwill for others.
Let our Christmas gift to our society be our commitment to peace. Find someone with whom you are now in conflict or tension; someone who doesn’t see the world the way you do; or someone to whom your kindness does not flow easily or at all.
I want to encourage all of us to be patient with one another and not to be competitive or covetous but to be cooperative and kind. Let us be our brothers’ or sisters’ keeper encouraging ourselves to focus on the meaning of the season.
We must love one another because love comes from God, and only those who love are born from God and they know God. Anyone who doesn’t love is automatically denouncing the presence of God for God is love. God dwells in us, and we dwell in Him, hence our actions should reflect that He indeed lives in us – 1 John 4:7-13.
The essence of Christianity is love and God manifested his love by giving away a special gift in the form of His only begotten Son – John 3:16. God is love, and love entails caring. Caring comes when a person gives freely and voluntarily to the needy. We are commanded and urged to have pity and give to the poor for whoever does that, lends to the LORD, and he will be repaid for his good deed – Prov 19:17.
Another important aspect of Christmas is the spending of time with family and friends. There is nothing as sweet as seeing families joyously united and bonding with old stories and jokes and even plans for the future.
Research shows that families who spend time together share stronger emotional bonds. Spending time as a family is associated with a sense of belonging and enhanced communication, particularly with children, who have higher academic performances and are less likely to have behavioral problems. Amid the busyness of the season, it is essential to remember that the most important part of the holidays is spending quality time with those you love.
Family traditions are valuable tools for raising kids, as they help to instill social values and contribute to creating close family ties. Regardless of the troubles or conflicts we may have with our loved ones, let us seize this opportunity this Christmas to resolve all the issues we had and unite.
Christmas is a busy and exciting time so let me encourage our drivers to exercise caution on the road. Let us be free of fatalities or serious accidents. If you are a bus driver and you feel tired, it is better to park your vehicle and rest. No driving and drinking please!
Helping the Poor and Needy: Christmas is a time for giving and receiving, a time to remember others less fortunate than ourselves. We should help people all the time and not just at Christmas. We need to emulate Jesus Christ by leaving a selfless life, bringing joy, happiness and goodwill to everyone irrespective of social status and religion. We must give to the homeless and poor in our communities.
The Church has always stood out as a voice for the poor, the helpless and the marginalized in society, for these are the people closest to the heart of God. We need to recognize the poor in our midst who are vulnerable to the threat of secularization, moral relativism, individualism, materialism and the negative impact of the internet and social media. Particularly at risk are our youths and families which form the basic building blocks of society.
As stewards of God’s creation, we need to care for the environment, so that generations to come can continue to enjoy the fruits of the earth. As Methodist Church we will continue to work closely with the government and other religious bodies to prevent moral decadence, to strengthen marriages, preserve families and to promote justice, peace and harmony.
Let us remember that we are citizens not only of St Lucia but also of humanity at large, and members of the Family of God. As people called to be the salt of the earth and light of the world, we must be committed to our country and do our part as responsible citizens and stewards, contributing wherever we are to build a gracious society and to bring the joy of the Gospel to those we meet.
We must stand up; speak up for the poor and the needy: We are advocates for the marginalized, the vulnerable and the disadvantaged. Our role as people is to make our voices heard. We must continue to speak on behalf of the voiceless, but more importantly, we must also empower them, and equip them to speak for themselves. We need to confront the powers that silence people. We must speak against policies that continue to impoverish and oppress people, and deny them their human rights. We must speak against systems that prevent resources from reaching all people equitably. We must speak against selective justice. We must speak against the pollution of our waters, our air, and our soil. The list is endless.
The more people try to prevent us from raising our voices, the more we must speak and take action. Throughout this week we are invited to reflect on our voices. Voices that encourage, heal and speak against evil and any type of oppression. Voices that restore the dignity of the oppressed; credible voices which are listened to and which empower the least in the most remote of our communities.
Let us work for lasting peace without keeping quiet in the face of injustice, oppression and every kind of violence. Justice and peace must walk together, and we as the Church should be at the forefront of announcing this full Gospel of justice and peace to our world.
As we celebrate Christmas this year, I pray that we would truly see the beauty and significance that all these things bring to our families and homes. Likewise, it is in sharing God’s greatest gift of love to humankind that we can reach out to others and allow them to find joy and peace in this most holy of seasons.
I pray for unity and peace in our nation and may the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ bring new hope for our country, “share the happiness and the love in our hearts to lift the spirits and improve the lives of those struck by accidents, incidents, and tragedies in the past. Merry Christmas to all